Oftel pushes for cheaper narrowband Internet

BT could lose £15m per year if it implements Oftel's latest proposals, and it's not clear whether wholesale savings would be passed on to consumers

Oftel is pushing for the cost of BT's wholesale unmetered narrowband Internet access products to be cut by 17 percent.

The telecoms regulator said on Friday that some of the charges that BT levies on the service providers that use its network to offer dial-up services are no longer fair. Oftel wants these costs to be dropped by BT, and claims that this would be good news for consumers.

"Oftel's action will ensure that operators and consumers pay a fair price for unmetered access from BT," said David Edmonds, Oftel's director general of telecommunications, in a statement.

If implemented, the decision would cost BT between £10m and £15m per year, plus an additional cost of up to £15m because Oftel wants it backdated to the end of 2001.

The telco has until 7 May to respond to the proposal, and so far it isn't giving any clear indications as to whether it will oppose or accept the move.

"This is a very complex subject, so we'll be studying Oftel's document carefully," a BT spokesman said.

But it is seen as unlikely that this proposal will be fought, as similar Oftel rulings of this type have generally been accepted by BT.

At this stage, it is too early to say whether this proposal would actually mean cheaper Internet access for consumers, especially as most companies are now concentrating on broadband. Several ISPs declined to speculate on Friday morning on what the impact of Oftel's proposal might be.

For a round-up of the latest on ISPs, broadband and related issues, see the Telecoms News Section.

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