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BT calls for tighter controls on Telewest and NTL

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Written by Munir Kotadia, Contributor on

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BT has attacked the UK's telecoms regulatory structure, claiming that regulators do not understand broadband, and that they let competing firms such as Telewest and NTL bypass many of the restrictions placed on BT. At the Carriers World Europe conference in London, BT's chief executive Ben Verwaayen said that broadband is "completely different" from dial-up and shouldn't face the same restrictions. "In a broadband environment, the competition is between platforms. 3G, cable modems and satellite are simply alternative ways to give customers a broadband experience," he said. Verwaayen also asked why cable companies can apply uncompetitive policies without any repercussions. "It is beyond me why three million cable telephone customers are deprived of services that are accessible on a BT line. For example, why is it OK for them [Telewest and NTL] to cut off any of the 118 - the new directory enquiries services -- numbers they choose?" he asked. For example Telewest customers are unable to access the 118 247 service, which replaced the previous 888 service offered by Yellow Pages to BT Cellnet, latterly O2, customers. A spokesman for Telewest hit back at BT claiming that the telco's attitude was "ironic" because it had been so slow in rolling out broadband services. "We are regulated by Oftel, but not in the same way. BT has a monopoly and, in theory, access to 100 per cent of the population through the phone system," he said. The Telewest spokesman also said that because the cable company covered less than 25 per cent of the country, it would be unfair to regulate it in the same way. However, he did reveal that this coverage will increase in the long term as it takes advantage of wireless networking technologies. "In terms of digging up streets and laying new cables, we are not going to expand. Over the next five to ten years, there will be economical and environmentally friendly ways of expanding our reach. We are looking into installing Wi-Fi points at the furthest ends of our cable infrastructure and spreading coverage that way," he said. Munir Kotadia writes for ZDNet UK
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