UK telco BT has raised competition fears among the country’s other ISPs. Angus Porter, managing director of BT Retail, has said that if the unit’s new Internet access product BT Broadband is a success, BT Retail may end up taking over BTopenworld’s ISP operations.
At present, BT Retail – which provides telephone access and billing for the majority of British consumers and SMEs – and Internet unit Openworld are run as separate, ring-fenced businesses.
However, BT Retail’s new no-frills BT Broadband ADSL service, which provides Internet access only (not including email addresses or web services), blurs the distinction. Consumers can pay for the new service on their phone bill.
Mr Porter believes this model should be taken further – so that in the long term, all BT’s access operations are passed to BT Retail, while Openworld should focus on online content.
The UK’s other ISPs are not happy with this plan, which would help BT leverage its phone dominance to increase its ISP market share. Previous regulators have prevented BT from exploiting its phone monopoly to win a share of new markets, but Oftel is now turning a blind eye, a Freeserve spokesman told the BBC.