Experts vent fury at BT's DSL plans

Slower, dearer, later: BT holds back UK plc

Just two days after AOL accused it of "ripping off" customers, BT has come under further attack from industry experts and users for its decision to extend its ADSL trial using lower bandwidth and higher prices.

As previously reported on ZDNet News, phase one of the North London trial, which ends next month, offered users data streams of up to 2Mbit/s for £30 but phase two, expected to closely mirror the planned roll out next year, has cut access speeds by nearly three quarters -- to 512kbit/s -- and hiked the price to £50.

Experts are outraged. Bob Jones, director of Internet access firm Equiinet, echoed previous attacks on BT's pricing by accusing the company of holding back UK companies' chances in Europe. "BT raised expectations with its first trial and now it is back-pedalling. High bandwidth for businesses is fundamental to the e-commerce economy," he said. Jones points out that US businesses have enjoyed a 1.5Mbit/s DSL link for several years and believes 2Mbit/s is a "typical minimum in Europe. Once again UK businesses are being disadvantaged," he said.

AOL's vice president and general counsel Clare Gilbert is highly critical of BT's position. "Fifty pounds a month is just unrealistic, it has to be more reasonably priced," she said. Gilbert is also scathing of BT's slow roll-out: "They haven't yet committed themselves to when it will roll out nationally." Derek Wyatt, Labour MP and chairman of the All Party Internet Group, agrees and suggested that opening up DSL services -- rapidly -- to other operators is key to the development of the Internet. "Oftel says local loop unbundling will happen in a year and a half, which gives BT 18 months to get their next monopoly sorted," he said.

Oftel insisted it is looking at the issues surrounding DSL with a statement promised within "the next few weeks". A consultation with the IT industry ended this month but an Oftel spokeswoman claimed the watchdog needs time to consider the comments. "We can't draw conclusions until we have comments in. We are looking at it now and will be drawing up a statement but you and the industry will have to wait," she said.

Kingston Communications, Hull's alternative telecoms operator announced its ADSL roll out Wednesday. It will offer ADSL for interactive TV, Internet and video-on-demand. The TV service will give users 4.5Mbit/s for £14.99 per month.

BT did not have a comment at the time of going to press.

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