Ofcom Investigates BT Fibre Dominance After TalkTalk Complaint

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Ofcom probes TalkTalk’s compalint of monopoly abuse. BT says it has no case to answer

Ofcom is to investigate BT for an alleged abuse of a dominant position in relation to the charges it demands from other ISPs for access to its fibre network, following a complaint from TalkTalk.

The regulator has confirmed that it has opened an investigation, after establishing reasonable grounds for suspecting that competition has been affected and whether BT has abused its position under UK or EU law.

In the initial phase of the investigation, it will gather further information using powers under the Competition Act 1998. It will decide whether to take things further in the autumn of 2013.

BT fibre investigation

BT Olympic 1BT’s fibre network now covers 15 million premises and is made available to other providers through BT Openreach, but TalkTalk has long been critical of the superfast broadband market for a lack of competition and has called for greater regulation.

Last October CEO Dido Harding said it was worrying that the majority of superfast broadband customers receive their products from two operators – BT and Virgin Media. In a statement, the company welcomed Ofcom’s decision.

“We have long maintained that there needs to be tighter regulation in superfast broadband to ensure a level playing field and therefore deliver real benefits for consumers and businesses,” said TalkTalk. “We are pleased that Ofcom is taking this matter seriously and have decided there are reasonable grounds to investigate BT’s wholesale fibre pricing.”

BT has denied any wrong doing and has called the investigation a waste of time.

“We’re disappointed that Ofcom has opened this case despite the lack of any evidence and we’re confident that there’s no case to answer,” said a BT spokesperson. “It would be better if the industry’s and Ofcom’s focus was on investing in the future of the country rather than on spurious actions designed to hold up fibre in the UK.”

Only last week, Ofcom was praising the UK for its competitive broadband market, claiming that the unbundling of copper telephone lines had helped promote competition and ensure lower bills for consumers. It also said that competition was improving in the fibre broadband market, with 80 providers other than BT Retail offering superfast broadband services of 30Mbps or above.

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