As the EC is forced to get tough on BT (quote: BT) this week imposing a December deadline for unbundling of the local loop, ZDNet has decided it is time to put BT's commitment to the Internet to the test with a little homegrown poll.
BT has shown a marked lack of enthusiasm for unbundling of the local loop -- which will allow other operators to offer broadband services -- claiming it is tantamount to handing over the keys of its exchanges to strangers. Others argue that this is exactly what the UK telecoms market needs in order to become a thriving and competitive place for Internet services.
While BT has long claimed that it is not possible to unbundle before July 2001, other European countries like Germany are already well under way with the process and the EC is now convinced that a December deadline is crucial to get the best deal for consumers.
In fact, BT's general track record on bringing the Internet to consumers has not always been spotless, as anyone familiar with stories on ZDNet over the last 18 months will testify. First Peter Bonfield made his now infamous gaffe, telling Internet users without home access to go to local schools to get online.
Then there was the unmetered debacle, with BT initially claiming it would not be technically possible to offer unmetered access and that Oftel would not allow it to treat data differently from voice. Only after immense government, industry and consumer pressure did the telco crack and offer the UK Surftime. But Surftime was universally slated and it was left to Oftel to force BT to roll out a workable and fair alternative.
Between these headlines there is also the little matter of BT and the patent dispute -- in which the telco wants to force firms to pay up for hyperlinks which it claims it invented. Plus the dispute with Oftel about allowing other operators to take over Internet services under the Calls and Access scheme and an ongoing row between the watchdog and BT Cellnet over whether the service is being subsidised unfairly.
Now we have BT at odds with the EC over when unbundling should happen. We have decided to pose a simple, direct question to ZDNet News readers: has BT acted in the interest of its consumers in its roll out of Internet services?
We want a straw poll on this so while we appreciate your detailed responses be sure to tell us at the head of your mail whether you AGREE or DISAGREE.
Have a look at the interim results of the poll at 4.44pm GMT on Fri, 14 Jul. Stay tuned for the final result...
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