Rutland Telecom forces data u-turn from BT

A street cabinet The dispute revolved around the location of street cabinets.

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A spat between BT and rival telecoms firm Rutland has been resolved and hailed as a victory for future broadband services.

The dispute revolved around crucial data held by BT and needed by rivals to work out the cost of supplying areas with new fibre-optic networks.

BT has agreed to change the way it supplies information about how addresses are linked to its network.

Rutland Telecom hailed it as a victory for the "whole industry".

BT had supplied information about which addresses were connected to which street cabinet on a "case by case basis" but it will now make information more widely available.

"Following disuccssions with industry on their exact requirements we will now be providing this data on a regional basis to help smaller players better plan for their broadband roll-outs," said a BT spokeswoman.

"The extent of our fibre roll-out across the UK means that this is a major undertaking, so it will be a few months before this data is available," she added.

Rutland Telecom told the BBC it had been trying to get this information from BT "for two years".

"It is a massive step in the right direction. Rutland has won this little battle but it applies across the board. Virgin Media and others could take advantage of it," said Rutland Telecom director Mark Melluish.

Under regulatory rules, BT's network provider Openreach has to make sure that services available to the telco's retail arm are also open to all other service providers.

"They had the information and we didn't so we weren't competing on a level playing field," said Mr Melluish.

He thinks the change of heart was down to "a combination of pressure from us and Ofcom".

Ofcom stepped into the dispute and suggested ways that the issue could be resolved so that data could be made available cheaply and easily.

Cartel

Start Quote

The next battle is to get access to BT's ducts and overhead poles”

End Quote Mark Melluish Director, Rutland Telecom

Rutland Telecom made headlines for offering fibre services to Lyddington, a village in the Midlands, funded entirely by the local community.

It was the first telco to "take over" BT's green cabinets.

BT had said it was not cost effective for it to offer fibre services in the area.

Point Topic analyst Oliver Johnson said more transparency on the data which shows the exact location of BT's street cabinets was vital.

"It would not release the location of its cabinets and say that it is due to security issues but we are not convinced that the security implications merit withholding this information," he said.

"The information was not available outside of the larger ISPs so smaller players couldn't enter into the cartel," he added.

The fight to provide broadband to rural areas is far from over, thinks Mr Melluish.

"The next battle is to get access to BT's ducts and overhead poles. If we had that we could lay our own fibre," he said.

Ofcom is currently considering whether to make it compulsory for BT and utility companies to open up their ducts for such purposes.

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