BT's day of reckoning: Oftel acts on SurfTime

Oftel forces BT to offer wholesale version of SurfTime, AOL hails it as the industry's 'first genuine pro-consumer reform'. Jane Wakefield reports

Telecoms watchdog Oftel on Friday issued a major blow to BT's SurfTime service, ordering the telco to offer a wholesale version to other operators. The decision could mean cheaper Net access for consumers.

The watchdog bites in response to complaints from rival telco WorldCom, which claimed Surftime is anticompetitive because it only offers a retail version. Oftel agrees and ordered BT (quote: BT) to have the wholesale version in place by 1 June.

AOL, long time campaigner against BT's monopoly of UK Net services believes the decision hails a new era for surfers. "Oftel's ruling to effectively end BT's role as gatekeeper to the Internet is a victory for consumers, competition and common sense," says a spokesman. "It is the first genuine pro-consumer reform benefiting the UK Internet industry."

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