TalkTalk boss Charles Dunstone has called for Ofcom to regulate the prices BT charges for access to its fibre network.
Arguing that competition needs to be encouraged by lower prices for access to the Openreach fibre network, Dunstone says that the flat fees currently charged by BT are too high while BT says it needs to cover the cost of its next-gen deployment.
Read Recombu Digital’s report on Fibre Broadband and BDUK
Pointing to the large sums of public money that BT had been given by local authorities and the government, Dunstone told the Financial Times that:
“We need to regulate fibre – and to check where the [state] money is going. There is so much government money going into subsidising higher broadband speeds but no one really knows where it is going and how it is being spent.”
BT has effectively been handed the keys to the remaining regional projects ever since Fujitsu, the last other entrant the BDUK funding race, announced that it was pulling out. This will see BT able to create a fibre network that covers the majority of the UK and in control of the prices it charges ISPs like TalkTalk to sell fibre products on to customers.
TalkTalk chief executive Dido Harding has called for Ofcom to look into fibre price regulation before, saying that without effective regulation, BT’s new network would be a ghost town. Speaking last May, Harding argued for regulation to be in place by 2015, the year when BT’s own commercial rollout – connecting two-thirds of the UK to fibre-based broadband – and most of the BDUK projects would be finished.
“We need to get a move on otherwise the country will have spent a lot of money building infrastructure which no one is using,” said Harding.
Recent BT figures show that 13 million UK homes and businesses have been connected to the new fibre network but just 7 per cent of those connected have taken it up. It’s perhaps worth bearing in mind that some connected homes will invariably be tied into long term contracts with other ISPs, so even if BT Infinity is available in their area, they might not be able to order it yet.
Early signs suggest that superfast broadband isn’t exactly flying off the shelves right now but whether this is due to there being a cost barrier for some ISPs isn’t clear. BT’s prices certainly haven’t stopped TalkTalk from launching their own fibre-based service, though without regulation these could change as and when BT sees fit.