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BT urges closer control of Telewest and NTL

BT thinks it is being unfairly treated by regulators, and wants cable companies to face more restrictions
Written by Munir Kotadia, Contributor

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 on Wednesday, 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.

As ZDNet UK reported on Wednesday, Verwaayen has blamed current regulatory practices for holding back the rollout of broadband networks to 100 percent of the UK population.

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.

John Moorwood, consumer PR manager at 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 percent of the population through the phone system," he said.

Moorwood also said that because the cable company covered less than 25 percent 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.

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