UK telecoms regulator Oftel has warned BT that it will allow rival operators to claim compensation from the telco if it fails to open up its local exchanges to competitors.
The watchdog has insisted that BT must allow competitors to install equipment in 600 of its exchanges by the end of June next year. The telco will be forced to pay compensation to rivals if it tries to deny access.
BT has previously argued that there is not enough space in some of its local exchanges for other operators to install equipment. But its rivals have disputed this claim, arguing that BT is using it as an excuse to delay the unbundling which will allow them to offer high-speed broadband internet services.
Oftel has said that rivals can commission an independent survey of any exchanges where BT claims it does not have space for their equipment. If a survey finds that there is enough room, BT will have to meet the cost of the survey and compensate the rival for any loss of revenue.
David Edmonds, director general at the regulator, said in a statement: "Oftel has found in favour of the operators' complaints that the contract proposed by BT was not reasonable in a number of important areas."
"The terms and conditions proposed by Oftel will ensure that operators receive the necessary support services from BT, and that operators can challenge BT using independent experts," he added.
However, BT, which said it welcomes Oftel's efforts to resolve any contractual disagreements, claims it had already made similar offers of compensation to rival operators in advance of Oftel's draft proposals.
"We welcome Oftel's efforts to resolve the outstanding contractual disagreements and we will be looking in more detail at the proposals," said a BT spokesman. "BT had already made offers to operators in terms of compensation prior to Oftel's statement. We will continue to meet all deadlines set."
Oftel has come under continual fire over recent months for its dealings with BT. At a Trade and Industry Select Committee meeting last week, MPs branded the regulator "lazy" and "complacent" in its approach to forcing BT to open up its local exchanges. Rival telcos have also accused Oftel of being slow to encourage competition.
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