Page last updated at 11:09 GMT, Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Faster broadband roll-out urged by Ofcom

Fibre optics
Ofcom wants to encourage bigger investment in super-fast broadband

Ofcom has unveiled new proposals to encourage the rollout of super-fast broadband across the UK.

The regulator is proposing that BT's fibre lines are opened so rival firms such as Sky and TalkTalk can provide their own services to consumers.

BT would then be able to set prices for these new wholesale products to enable them to make a fair rate of return.

Ofcom hopes its plans will lead to millions more consumers enjoying speeds of 50 to 100 megabits per second.

The plan is similar to the way BT's copper telephone network was opened to rival phone and broadband services.

Ofcom also proposed in its report that BT should offer other communications providers access to its underground ducts and overhead telegraph poles.

The regulator hopes that this would allow other communications providers to build their own fibre networks more cost-effectively.

Ofcom said that its proposals were aimed at helping companies to compete to invest in these new networks.

'No surprise'

A BT spokesman said that its fibre network was already open to other firms and that it was not being "forced" to provide access.

"BT has already said that it is willing to open its ducts, so the requirement we do so comes as no surprise," BT added.

"We agree with Ofcom that there are challenges with such access, but we will work with industry to define a suitable product that meets everyone's needs.

"Duct access is unlikely to be the 'silver bullet' to get fibre to the countryside, but all options should be explored."

Meanwhile, the issue has become a political, as well as a technical, one.

"Labour and the Tories are both vying with each other over policies to promote the provision of fast internet connections in homes," said BBC business editor Robert Peston.

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