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Ofcom Confirms New BT Rules

The Rules

Regulator Ofcom has confirmed news rules for BT after it emerged recently that it was taking the BT infrastructure wing 48 days on average to install business lines. Ofcom has warned BT it needs to shape up and improve install times, cut wholesale prices and allow rivals to access the company’s dark fibre network.

Proposals have been approved by officials in Brussels which means BT will have until March 2017 to speed up its business installs to 46 days, and then further reduce times to 40 days by 2018. Openreach must also complete 80% of leased line orders by the date it promises customers by the end of March 2017, rising to 90% a year later.

The watchdog additionally requires BT to open up its dark fibre network to competitiors—allowing operators to have physical access to the company’s fibre-optic cables, thereby giving them direct control of the connection. BT has labelled demands for dark fibre a ‘cherry pickers charter’.

The rules follow the draft proposal in March. At that time Ofcom’s competition group director Jonathan Oxley said the new rules would mean companies across the U.K. benefit from faster installation times, greater certainty about installation dates, and fast repairs if things go wrong.

As part of the dark-fiber proposals, Ofcom requires BT to publish a draft proposal with wholesale pricing and terms for access by Sept. 1. Following negotiation between BT and other providers, BT will publish a final offer by Dec. 1. This results in dark-fiber access available to telecoms providers from October 2017.

Access would only be required in areas of the country where BT has been found to have significant market power (SMP), which is everywhere apart from Central London and Hull, which is served primarily by Kcom.

Ofcom has also confirmed the reduction in wholesale prices charged by BT for leased line services, which the regulator said should cut costs for businesses. Ofcom said BT Ethernet service prices will fall by around 12%, while traditional line services will fall 7.5%.

BT has made their views on the proposals clear and is adamant that the changes won’t lead to Ofcom’s objectives of infrastructure competition. So will BT come quietly? That remains to be seen.