Rivals accuse BT of stifling Broadband Britain

The members of the Broadband Industry Group want BT's market share cut back in the name of innovation, but BT finds the claim 'incredible'

A group of telecoms operators have claimed that Britain's broadband market is being "stifled" because of BT's dominant position.

The Broadband Industry Group (BIG) urged the government to do more to encourage competition in the sector, in a statement published on Friday.

"The broadband market in the UK remains stifled by a lack of competition at the wholesale level where BT retains a monopolistic 99 percent share in DSL, the leading technology," said BIG, which is made up of Brightview, Cable & Wireless, Centrica, Energis, Freeserve and Tiscali.

"Unless a genuinely competitive market is created, alternative broadband providers, consumers, businesses and the UK economy as a whole will miss out on the benefits of broadband."

BIG was responding to comments made by e-commerce minister Stephen Timms earlier this week, when he told the Financial Times that tougher targets might be needed to encourage businesses to take up high-speed Internet services.

Timms's comments showed that the government is beginning to plan its strategy for the next five or six years.

According to BIG, a key part of that process will be increased competition, with BT losing some market share to other telecoms operators -- such as BIG's members.

BT, though, rejects BIG's claim that Broadband Britain is being stifled by a lack of competition.

"It seems incredible that they have ignored the fact there are more than one and a half million cable subscribers," said a BT spokesman, adding that there are "literally dozens" of ISPs reselling its own ADSL services.

"The UK really is one of the most, if not the most, competitive broadband markets in the world."