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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 22 October, 2002, 13:41 GMT 14:41 UK
People power pushes broadband frontier
Castle Rising, Norfolk
Towns and villages across the UK could soon get ADSL
BT celebrates the first success of its broadband registration scheme as residents in West Yorkshire learn they will be soon be getting high-speed connections.

But the celebration could be short-lived as it emerged that rival Freeserve has lodged an official complaint with Oftel about BT's radical new internet service.

Whether residents in Todmorden choose to use BT's "no frills" broadband service or one from a rival ISP will be their decision, but Freeserve is unhappy that many will be unfairly targeted by the telco.

Anyone in the UK who receives a BT telephone bill - around 18.9 million people - will be told in the coming weeks and months about BT's 27 broadband service which gives them a basic connection to the internet.

Not so rosy


Market growth must not be at the expense of the true competition

David Melville, Freeserve
Freeserve believes this gives the former monopoly an unfair advantage over other ISPs and has taken its complaint to telecoms regulator Oftel.

"Oftel would have us believe that all is rosy in the UK's broadband market with consumer take-up gathering pace," said Freeserve's General Counsel David Melville.

"But market growth must not be at the expense of the true competition that created affordable narrowband internet for millions of consumers," he said.

Oftel intervention

"Nobody has any interest in seeing BT monopolise this important new market the way it does telephony, least of all consumers, who will see prices fall more slowly and service quality inevitably suffer," he added.

As well as marketing via the so-called Blue Bill, Freeserve is also unhappy BT's 150 helpline will be used to inform customers about the new service.

Freeserve wants Oftel to prohibit BT Retail from using the advantages it has over other ISPs and to force the telco to sell internet products via a separate business unit.

While Oftel investigates the complaint, residents in Todmorden have reason to celebrate as BT Wholesale announces the Yorkshire town will be able to get broadband in November.

Todmorden, West Yorks
Todmorden is first to get broadband
People power

It is the first exchange to be ADSL-enabled since BT launched its registration scheme to exploit the pent-up demand for broadband in areas that had previously not been able to receive it.

Consumers who live in the third of the UK yet to be ADSL-enabled need to register their interest with an ISP of their choice and when enough people have applied BT agrees to enable the local telephone exchange.

There has been some controversy over the levels set by BT, which ranges anywhere between 200 and 750 customers, and pressure groups have accused the telco of setting them artificially high.

Despite this, six other exchanges - Irby on the Wirral, Paddock Wood and Pembury in Kent, Penn in Buckinghamshire, Ponteland in Northumberland and Twyford in Berkshire - have reached their targets and will have broadband in December.

A further three exchanges, Leek in Staffordshire, Bishops Waltham in Hampshire and Kesgrave in Suffolk are just a handful of confirmations short.

Tom Bryne is founder of the broadband4irby campaign and is delighted that BT has listened to customers.


BT is now pulling out all the stops to match their enthusiasm and deliver the broadband connections they've asked for

Ben Verwaayen, BT
"The campaign proves local people can make the difference in delivering the broadband future," he said.

BT's Chief Executive Ben Verwaayen has in the past stated that the telco has no social responsibility to roll out broadband to every part of the UK.

But he is pleased people power is extending the reach of broadband technology.

"People in these areas put themselves in the vanguard of the movement to be the next to get ADSL broadband," he said.

"BT is now pulling out all the stops to match their enthusiasm and deliver the broadband connections they've asked for," he added.


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