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TalkTalk vs BT fibre broadband regulation bitchfight rumbles on

Dido Harding has hit back at ‘Luddite’ accusations from BT bosses who claim TalkTalk is promoting copper broadband at the expense of selling faster fibre connections.

It’s the latest round in a war of words which follows TalkTalk’s call for Ofcom to regulate the prices BT can charge ISPs for selling fibre broadband connections.

TalkTalk claims BT has a monopoly and gets the benefit of state funds like BDUK to build its fibre-enhanced network, but can charge what it likes to ISPs such as TalkTalk or Sky.

TalkTalk vs BT fibre broadband regulation bitchfight rumbles on
TalkTalk does sell fibre broadband, but could it be cheaper?

Read more about the BT Broadband RolloutIn a letter to today’s Daily Telegraph, TalkTalk CEO Dido Harding wrote: “There is no one else that TalkTalk, or any of BT’s other wholesale customers, could buy superfast broadband from. 

“That’s a monopoly and is why we must ensure that superfast broadband is regulated, just as copper broadband has been so successfully, to ensure that pricing is fair and transparent. 

“As one of BT’s biggest customers we welcome their expertise in building and maintaining networks and the investment they are making in rolling out superfast broadband which they should absolutely make the return on, but not to the detriment of competition.”

BT is spending £2.5bn of its own money to provide FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) areas it deems commercially viable, and under its BDUK contracts is matching state funds from local, national and European government. 

So far, BT Openreach has won every BDUK contract in England, Wales, and Scotland, with a special project in Northern Ireland.

Ian Livingston, BT’s chief executive, says shareholders won’t accept these investments if they can’t expect a decent return.

He said: “These criticisms are coming from people I can only describe as copper Luddites. They don’t’ want to see the UK getting fibre. BT fibre is open to any provider in the UK on the same terms as BT – there are 50 or 60 of them, that’s not what I call a monopoly.”

Earlier this week, BT Openreach CEO Liv Garfield took aim at TalkTalk‘s chariman, Sir Charles Dunstone, after he repeated the call for Ofcom to regulate fibre pricing.

Harding and Livingston have come from very different backgrounds to lead two of Britain’s communications giants.

Harding is a blue-blooded member of the establishment: the horse-racing-fanatic daughter of Lord Harding, who studied alongside David Cameron at Oxford and is married to Conservative MP John Penrose. 

Livingston is the fourth-generation son of a Polish-Lithuanian Jewish doctor from Glasgow, who graduated in economics from Manchester University at 19, became the FTSE 100’s youngest finance director when he was 32 at Dixons, and is also a non-executive director of Celtic FC.

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