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November 26, 2010

ISP’s accuse Ofcom of limiting rural broadband options

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by Brian Turner

Recent UK Government’s plans for rural broadband roll-out are being jeopardised before they even begin.

This is according to a number of smaller ISP’s, complaining that Ofcom threatens to undermine rural broadband roll out due to a lack of coordination with government policy.

The Government has previously said that it is committed to the roll-out of superfast broadband; in October it announced investment up to £830million by 2017.

The Government has also backed a removal of the barriers stalling investment in rural broadband, in particular allowing the whole market access to BT’s assets.

However, some ISP’s are complaining that Ofcom policy set in October this year is in direct conflict with this, not least only giving the industry a very limited right to use BT’s existing ducts and poles, for rolling out new optical fibre.

Chris Smedley, Chief Executive of ISP Geo, said, “[Ofcom policy] is clearly favourable to BT and has given it a huge cost advantage when pitching for rural broadband projects. The BDUK pilots in Cumbria, Herefordshire, the Highlands and Islands and North Yorkshire have been announced, and yet…only BT is in a position to pitch for these.

“BT’s Openreach division has not yet provided the rest of the industry with the prices and terms that it will levy for access to its poles or ducts. Without this knowledge we can’t compete for the forthcoming rural broadband projects on a level playing field. We need more transparency and fairness in the system.”

While the government is obviously keen to push for stronger broadband access, it may wish to pause and take note of what smaller ISP’s are saying if they wish to maintain a competitive and accessible broadband market in rural areas.

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