BT's rivals formally complain to regulator

Just as Clear strikes its 'relationship package' with Telecom, its parent company British Telecom is being attacked for being anti-competitive in rolling out its own DSL services.

          Just as Clear has ironed out its "relationship package" with Telecom, its parent company British Telecom is being attacked for being anti-competitive in rolling out its own DSL services.

          As the New Zealand telecommunications industry waits for the final recommendations from the Ministerial Inquiry into Telecommunications later this morning, the British experience is providing proof that even an industry-specific regulator - something Clear, among others, have pressed for - is no panacea for competitive ills.

          The government agency that regulates the UK telecommunications industry, the Office of Telecommunications (Oftel) has received a formal complaint from a group of UK telecommunication companies concerning the business practices of British Telecommunications PLC (BT).

          The group, which includes Kingston Communications, Colt Telecom and Energis, is asserting that BT's roll-out of broadband services is discriminatory towards its rivals, said a Colt spokesman who asked to remain anonymous.

          The complaint, sent last Friday, "is a private document" pointing out "the undue preferences BT is giving to its ADSL customers," the spokesman said.

          The group is calling on Oftel to ensure fair play on BT's part and also demanding fair access to BT's exchanges so that they too can roll out broadband services, which would include delivering TV and video over traditional copper wires, the spokesman said.

          Oftel is already under attack that it is badly mishandling its efforts to speed deregulation in the Internet sector, a charge which Oftel disputes.

          "As far as Oftel is concerned, we totally refute the charge that Oftel has stifled the growth of Internet services. On the contrary, the UK has led the way in promoting cheap Internet access in Europe," an Oftel spokeswoman told the IDG News Service in a September phone interview.

          Oftel determined last November that BT has a monopoly on the local network lines and directed the telecommunications operator to lease the local loop. At the time, Oftel directed BT to upgrade the local loop to handle new broadband digital services for faster Internet connections, to encourage competition. BT was given a deadline of July 2001.

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