30/7/2001 Sometimes, ya gotta love the dead hand of the market. What Oftel, the EU and Gordon Brown has failed to do -- unbundle the local loop from BT -- may be achieved by the simple expedient of offering the comatose telco a large wedge of cash. Earthlease, a bank-led consortium, has put 8 billion quid on the table and offered to take BT's copper off its hands. BT doesn't like this, even though it's desperate for dosh. It says that it's not in consumer interests, but doesn't say that its plans for recovery include a whole heap of things like broadcasting telly down those selfsame wires -- why do you think they poached Bland from the BBC? If it had to rent the lines back, as Earthlease proposes, this looks a lot dodgier. But BT may not have much choice. Everyone but BT's desperate to free the twisted pair, and the combination of intense consumer, national and European pressure plus BT's own bankers staring a big cheque in the face might prove the perfect carrot/stick combo. The offer puts a price of around 400 pounds on each line, which seems more than fair to me. Here's hoping.