British telecoms regulator Ofcom has launched a consultation setting out proposals under which fixed line incumbent BT would be prevented from targeting reduced wholesale charges in areas where rivals are rolling out new ultrafast networks. Carrying out the consultation as part of its wider Wholesale Local Access (WLA) market review, the regulator said it was examining this specific matter after respondents to an earlier consultation had raised concerns that BT could seek to prevent or reduce the competitive rollout of new ultrafast networks by reducing its wholesale prices in the areas where such infrastructure is rolled out by alternative operators. Ofcom argues that there is indeed ‘cause for concern’ in this respect, suggesting such behaviour could weaken the business case for the deployment of new networks,and has proposed the introduction of a new clause in the draft significant market power (SMP) conditions. This, it noted, would specify that targeted discounting would amount to ‘undue discriminaton’, and as such would impose a restriction on BT’s ability to vary wholesale rental charges in its fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) footprint between different areas.
A deadline of 12 January 2018 has been set for submissions from stakeholders regarding the matter, while Ofcom has said it then expects to publish a final decision in a statement in ‘early 2018’, with any new measures taking effect on 1 April that year.