BT pressing for freedom in pricing wholesale fibre service

14 Jun 2012

British fixed line incumbent BT has reportedly argued that it should not have price controls applied to its in-deployment fibre broadband network, with the company’s strategy director Sean Williams having told the House of Lords Communications Committee that long-term investment in the infrastructure is difficult amid continued regulatory changes. British broadsheet The Guardian cites the executive as saying: ‘It’s very difficult for us to make a long-term investment if the regulatory regime changes every three years … If there’s one thing I could ask it’s not to regulate the price over an extended period of time so that there is a balance of risk.’ The telco is understood to have claimed that it will take around 20 years to recoup the investment in its fibre network, having previously revealed that it would spend around GBP2.5 billion (USD3.89 billion) in bringing the infrastructure to around two thirds of the country; a further GBP1 billion has also been set aside to match government funding for remote communities. The call for freedom on pricing comes in the wake of rival TalkTalk’s plea for telecoms regulator Ofcom to step in and set wholesale prices next year to ensure that the rates BT charges are fair.

The comments come after the Lords Communications Committee met earlier this week to hear further evidence on superfast broadband. The first evidence session, which was held between 12-13 June, reportedly focused on a number of areas, including the rollout of superfast broadband in Cumbria, one of the original Next Generation Access (NGA) pilots. Prior to the hearing, the Committee also said that it planned to ‘question witnesses about the experience of the East Cumbria Community Broadband Forum (ECCBF) on issues such as DEFRA’s Rural Community Broadband Fund and the challenges faced during the rollout’, while representatives from BT, the Broadband Stakeholder Group and Microsoft would, it said, be questioned regarding issues including the uses and demand for superfast broadband, regulation and policy, and infrastructure and service provision.