OPENREACH has hit back at proposals from telecoms watchdog Ofcom about opening up its infrastructure to BT's competitors.
Ofcom, which had forced BT and Openreach to separate in a bid to make the 'playing field' more level in the broadband space , revealed more details about its plans to make it quicker and easier for BT's competitors to build their own fibre networks on Openreach's existing telegraph poles and ducts.
The main proposals included the ability for providers to lay fibre using BT's ducts and poles as easily as BT itself, with the cost to BT for providing this access to be spread across all users. It also suggested Openreach should repair fault infrastructure, clear blocked tunnels where necessary for providers to access them, and to ensure capacity is available on its telegraph poles for additional fibre cables that connect buildings to a competitor's network.
Ofcom suggested the companies should be able to lay fibre for consumers and businesses, provided the purpose of the network is primarily to deliver broadband to homes and small offices, and that Openreach has to continue to develop a ‘digital map' of its duct and pole network so competitors can plan new networks.
The proposals form part of Ofcom's Wholesale Local Access Market Review for the period from April 2018 to March 2021, and it is asking for feedback before the consultation closes on 15 June 2017.
In response to the consultation, an Openreach spokesperson said: "Our ducts and poles have been open since 2011 and Ofcom recognises the big steps we've taken recently to encourage more companies to use them.
"As well as launching an online mapping tool, we've made the whole process more accessible, user-friendly, automated and self-service oriented," the spokesperson said.
They added that while they recognise that further improvements might be needed over time, the economics of network investment "remain challenging".
"Investing in more full fibre and upgrading not spots will be even harder if Ofcom force us to cover the upfront entry costs for other companies," the spokesperson said.
But while Openreach isn't satisfied with the suggestion that it should foot the bill for other fibre networks to piggy-back off of its ducts and poles, the minister of state for digital and culture, Matt Hancock, welcomed the proposals.
"These plans will open up the UK's fibre broadband network to more competition, driving more investment and innovation," he said.
"We want everyone in the UK to have access to fast, reliable, and affordable broadband, and Ofcom's proposals are good news for consumers, businesses, and the country. We hope that that BT's competitors will make the most of this opportunity to invest in the next generation of ultrafast internet connections." µ
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