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iomart represented at House of Commons

19th December 2000 · Press Releases

iomart Group plc’s high profile in pursuing the unbundling of the local loop was maintained today (Tuesday, December 19) when they represented the UK’s New Entrant telecommunications operators at the House of Commons Trade and Industry Select Committee.

Speaking afterwards, Phil Worms, iomart Director of Broadband Services, said: “The process is frustrating – BT is dragging its feet. Whilst recognising that some improvements have been made in the last few months, the regulator needs to ensure that at all time scales are enforced if we are to see unbundling of the loop in the early part of 2001.” iomart’s Phil Worms was part of a four strong team called to give evidence to the Select Committee on behalf of iomart, Easynet, OnCue, Fibrenet, Atlantic and Versapoint. Today’s hearing in Portcullis House formed part of an ongoing investigation into the process behind unbundling of the local loop and the relationship between telecoms watchdog, OFTEL and incumbent, BT.

Among the issues under discussion were – * Relationships with BT * Bow-wave process allocations (first and second) * Assessment of space * Trial sites * Distant location * Transparency; Terms and conditions for Local Loop Unbundling. A submission by the six telcos accuses BT of foot-dragging over allowing rival operators access to install DSL equipment in local exchanges.

The submission also criticises OFTEL for not being tough enough in its regulation of BT. The submission states: “We believe that a range of operators using a range of technologies to provide a range of broadband services, both regionally and nationally, at competitive prices can best satisfy customers’ unmet demand for the widest possible variety of services. This can only be achieved by having access to BT’s exchanges and copper on a transparent and nondiscriminatory basis on reasonable terms and conditions.”

It continues: “We do not have transparent and nondiscriminatory access and we do not yet have reasonable terms and conditions. Indeed, we do not even have access. If we compare BT’s ease of access and its achievement of DSL installations at 615 exchanges to date, competitors are only just having sites handed over for the first kit installs at their trial sites, after starting in April 2000. This is a total of nine months pre-preparation for five sites. “A direct UK comparison based on the current allocation to operators of space at BT’s local exchanges would show that it would take the operators over 30 years to achieve parity with BT’s own roll out.”

The New Entrants argue that the most effective and positive response now is for OFTEL to focus all the powers at its disposal to ensure BT’s competitors can enter the market secure in the knowledge the environment is fully transparent, nondiscriminatory, and that the key supplier offers its copper and its local exchange buildings at cost-based prices.

The submission adds: “OFTEL must rigorously audit BT’s behavior and the resources and capabilities it has put in place to meet the reasonable demands of the industry (as expressed informally in January and in June 2000 and formally on September 12, 2000 and December 7, 2000). “Where difficulties arise which threaten the process, OFTEL should seek swiftly the fastest way to resolve this, whether by issuing a subject specific policy statement after consultation with interested parties or by relying on its existing powers to address such threats. OFTEL has not, in the past, acted as quickly as it might have.

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