RealTime IT News

UK's ADSL Dispute Taken to OFTEL

As a result of its limited allocations from British Telecom, ISP Freeserver Plc said it is only doing a maximum of 29 installations a day and has taken its case to OFTEL, the official watchdog for the UK telecoms industry.

BTopenworld's chief executive, Andy Green, addressing a conference in Amsterdam earlier this week, said that BTopenworld has been adding between 1,000 and 2,000 ADSL subscribers a week since the beginning of the year. BT is the sole supplier of ADSL in the UK, and its Ignite division wholesales ADSL connections to ISPs. According to BT, of the 35,000 customers that BT Ignite has enabled, around 15,000 subscribe to BTopenworld.

Freeserve, which was only allocated 16 installations a day in January, alleges that BT is allowing BTopenworld to easily outstrip its competitors in growing its customer base. John Pluthero, chief executive officer of Freeserve has commented on the figures, saying, "BT's revelation is a shocking admission that they are institutionally restricting the market share of Freeserve and other competing broadband providers. At the current, pathetic levels of allocation granted to us by BT it would take us 3-4 years to get to where BT Openworld says it is today. Maybe this is why we are the last country in Europe to see ADSL. BT has succeeded in making it uneconomic and unavailable. UK consumers would be thoroughly justified in demanding the resignation of the entire BT board."

A spokesperson for BT Ignite told uk.internet.com that it "absolutely refute[s] that allegation. There is no preferential treatment shown to Openworld." He added that, "BT Ignite has an allocation/installation process and will always equally share out available installations across the ISPs. This is all pro rata, so you get about 40% of the orders you put in."

BT points out that this information is available to the ISPs on the Ignite website, and that all ISPs understand this. Allocations are made based on a two-month forecast period, so allocations being made now to ISPs are based on forecasts that they made in December. BT Ignite also points out that other ISPs have expressed their satisfaction with the process, quoting iomart as having termed the process as "very fair".

AOL complaining about BT restricting other ISPs access to ADSL could be seen as a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Only very recently, in pre-merger monopoly investigations, AOL was accused by the FTC of restricting competing ISPs' access to the content of the would-be merged company.