Government adviser denies broadband monopoly claims

Alcatel claims that the Financial Times' story about company chairman Dr Peter Radley being in favour of broadband monopolies is inaccurate
Written by Jane Wakefield, Contributor

Alcatel has criticised the Financial Times for misrepresenting the words of its chairman Dr Peter Radley regarding the state of broadband in the UK.

Radley is chairman of an advisory body set up by government to look at future broadband policy and is reported by the FT as saying that the provision of wholesale broadband in the UK will remain in the hands of a monopoly such as BT.

Alcatel claims this is "completely inaccurate". In a statement the firm says that Bradley has never urged any form of broadband monopoly. "Doctor Radley believes that it is only competition among a broad field of operators that will ensure real choice for all consumers and, just as importantly, the proper development of broadband Britain," the statement reads.

The Cabinet Office, to which the Broadband Stakeholder Group -- chaired by Radley -- reports, claims that his views will not necessarily form government policy. "He talks about various options and may be hinting at what he thinks is the best option. He is stirring up possibilities about monopolies and duopolies but that is not necessarily how it will be," said a spokeswoman.

Among other comments made to the newspaper, Radley argues that what will really matter to consumers is that there is competition in the retail sector, allowing for a choice of prices and platforms. BT argues that price is not as important as quality. "You have to not just look at the headline price, but also what the consumer gets for that, the nature of the product, the bandwidth, and customer support also contribute to commercial attractiveness," said a spokesman.

The government set up the advisory panel to gain the industry's view on the future of broadband following a series of criticisms about the rollout of high-speed services in the UK. Unbundling of the local loop has failed to attract more than a handful of operators and operators have complained that the market is dominated by BT and its wholesale price is too expensive. BT denies this, claiming that demand for wholesale local loop unbundling is "to a large extent attributable to the economic downturn".

Neither does it accept that it is offering wholesale services to other operators at a high price. "BT is a commercial organisation and we have a duty to look after the economic interests of shareholders and other customers," the spokesman said.

For Oftel it is business as usual, with its project to unbundle the local loop open to all operators. "The comments [of Dr Radley] are not feeding into Oftel's policy," said a spokeswoman. "As the government regulator we are not in a position to restrict access to the local loop."

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