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BT refuses to play ball with OFCOM

BT has signalled that it won't roll over and comply with new regulatory demands made by Ofcom if such moves are too damaging for its business, reports the Financial Times.

In its review of the UK's telecoms sector last month Ofcom called on BT to give rival operators equal access to its products and services (aka "equivalence") and to bring about "substantive behavioural and

organisational changes" within its sprawling organisation.

Failure to make these changes would lead to BT facing threat of being broken up, said Ofcom.

But BT boss Ben Verwaayen today told the Financial Times that it would not meet all of Ofcom's demands if it meant damaging its business.

"If equivalence means everything that is invented by BT must be available to everybody else, then the answer is that's not equivalence, "he said.

"You have to define what [equivalence] is...otherwise every invention that somebody in BT comes up with immediately goes to the rest of the world - that would be ridiculous. [Equivalence] is about that part that has to be regulated because it is uneconomic or technically impossible [for rivals] to replicate."

Verwaayen called for greater co-operation within the industry to help bring about the changes demanded by Ofcom. "I think it's possible, but it takes two to tango and in this case it takes a whole army to tango because the whole market has to tango with us," he said.

But his comments have already caused concern. One source, who asked not to be named, told us: "We'd love to go dancing with BT, but every time we put on our posh frock BT changes the tune."

Insiders reckon this is exactly what BT is doing now. Faced with a February deadline to show that it will comply, they claim BT is back to its same old tricks and putting up resistance to the regulator. It's also facing up to Ofcom, which effectively issued an ultimatum - comply or face being broken


"BT is stalling - it's buying time. It's had plenty of time to talk in the past but never did. Now the pressure is on it's decided it wants to discuss this with the industry. Ofcom will have to watch out that BT doesn't string it along like it did so well with Oftel," said the source.

No one from Ofcom was available for comment.

Lawrence Jones, Managing Director of award-winnning ISP UKFast, stated "There is no bigger example of a monopoly in the United Kingdom. I think it will be years before Ofcom make any impact to BT's pricing structure. By the time they do, the damage will already be done."

BT are feeling the cold this winter in the ISP world too. With the recent uprising lead by the ISPA followed by the newly formed UKIF revolt, BT are finding that if they step out of line they are met with angry but organised opposition.

Jones added: "BT are very quick to implement price increases, after the recent suggestion from Ofcom designed introduce more Central pipe suppliers showed. However they are not forthcoming when in comes to price reductions which effect their bottom line."

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