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David Edmonds of Oftel
"BT will have to open its exchanges to other companies"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 30 November, 1999, 09:10 GMT
BT forced to open network
internet user Access to the internet could become easier

BT has been told to open up local lines to competitors within the next 18 months, making it much easier to use the internet.

The telecoms regulator, Oftel, has told BT that it will have to allow other telephone companies access to its local phone lines into homes by July 2001.

Other operators may be able to offer high-speed services
The idea is to speed up the introduction of broadband services, which include telephone, internet, and television services all delivered through the copper wires.

The new services, which will include video on demand, are likely to make using the internet much easier for consumers and businesses.

Normal text pages could be downloaded instantly, and services like music and videos could be delivered more easily to the home.

It is expected that within the next decade most homes using the internet will convert to the high-speed services.

The technology, called DSL, already exists to allow internet connections up to 100 times faster than existing modems, and BT has been testing it for some time.

But other operators have been unable to offer the service to customers who want it, because they would first have to modify BT's local phone exchange to install the new system.

Now BT will have to lease the local loop to the home to other operators and allow them to install the new equipment in its exchanges.

Other providers of internet services, such as AOL, have complained bitterly that they are not able to offer the services customers want because of the lack of access to BT's local network.

Internet revolution

There has been concern that the UK is lagging behind in using the internet because of BT's monopoly.

In the United States, high-speed internet connections are already being offered by a number of major telephone companies.

And the biggest long-distance operator, AT&T, has spent $100bn acquiring cable television companies in order to operate broadband services through fibre optic cables.

BT is planning to introduce the new technology in 400 exchanges in the next few years.

And UK cable operators plan to roll out digital services across their networks over the next year, although plans may have been delayed by a hold-up in the merger plans of the two main companies.

Pressure on charges

The telecoms regulator, Oftel, has also been increasing the pressure on BT to cut its prices for access to the internet.

It says that the current charges are too high, especially for heavy users, and has said that BT must negotiate a better charging structure with other operators.

In principle, it would like to see the introduction of unmetered access for internet use, where charges are fixed each month rather than depend on the number of minutes used.

And it says that BT's latest offer to other operators - which would give them limited flat-rate access - does not go far enough.

In the US, services are also offered on a flat-fee basis, allowing people to leave their internet connection permanently open, receiving e-mails and downloads continually.

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See also:
10 Nov 99 |  The Economy
BT cuts internet call costs
11 Nov 99 |  The Company File
BT's 'flawed' internet deal
17 Nov 99 |  The Company File
BT speeds internet access
11 Nov 99 |  The Company File
BT profits from overseas expansion

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