BT's proposed ADSL pricing is too high, a leading politician has claimed, and the telecoms regulator Oftel is powerless to act.
BT finally unveiled its plans for high-speed Web access last week. The company will install its ADSL service to 400 exchanges by March 2000, covering almost 6,000,000 households and businesses in the UK.
However, estimated wholesale prices of £40 per month for a 0.5Mbps connection and £150 per month for a 2Mbps connection angered LibDem MP Steve Webb.
"It sounds very expensive. With ISDN, prices put people off," he said.
"I'd like to see Oftel stepping in."
However, Oftel admitted that it has no power over BT's charges for the ADSL lines. The regulator only has control over the existing infrastrucure, a spokeswoman told PC Week. Oftel will be able to check on the price charged by third-party suppliers, however. The estimated cost to a home user is around £48 per month, while the cost to BT is £15 a month.
Oftel also forced BT last week to commit to supplying every household in the UK with ADSL, rather than just the profitable areas.
Rory Dobson, a PC Week reader living near Kirkhill in Scotland, welcomed the news cautiously. "My real problem is with the rural exchanges we've got. I am beyond the theoretical limit to recieve digital services from my local exchange, so BT will have to work miracles or I'll get extremely slow ADSL. It is, however, very good news."
ADSL has triggered much controversy for BT over the past year. The company has delayed ADSL trials several times, and was finally pushed into announcing a timetable for rolling out the service by Oftel's proposal to open up the local loop to competition (see PC Week, 13 July).
The LibDems' Webb is not satisfied with BT's timetable. "It is taking a terribly long time," he complained. "Why do we still have to wait until March? I shall certainly be talking to ministers when we are back in Parliament."
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