BT must be split to prevent broadband monopoly, says MP

BT should be split in two before it can build a monopoly on superfast broadband, according to shadow business minister Chi Onwurah.

BT should be split in two before it can build a monopoly on superfast broadband, says the shadow business minister.

Labour MP Chi Onwurah warns the government could "sleepwalk into a monopoly" if it doesn't take action to stop Britain's biggest telecom company taking complete control of superfast broadband.

Onwurah told the House of Lords that "structural separation" is "a significant intervention", but "monopoly provision of superfast broadband just isn't an acceptable option."

BT is currently spending £2.5bn to replace existing copper connections between telephone exchanges and street cabinets with faster fibre-optic cables. Two thirds of the country will benefit from the advanced fibre-to-the-cabinet network over the next three years, with the final third to be paid for by government money.

That's the issue that concerns BT's opponents, with rivals Virgin Media and Fujitsu -- currently the only other bidder for the government greenbacks -- complaining that BT will get all the money. Government cash totalling £980m is at stake, and BT has already snaffled two of the nine local council contracts available for broadband providers to bid on.

BT argues that splitting up the company would leave the taxpayer paying for the cost of the network upgrades, and nobody wants that. We already have to pay for the roads and the hospitals and the schools, now they want us to pay for the Internet too? Strewth!

Virgin Media is also upgrading its network to fibre optic for improved speeds -- and in fact reached 10 million homes earlier this year, ahead of BT which only hit that milestone this month.

Virgin has also doubled and for some customers tripled speeds this year.

Does BT have a monopoly? Are BT's rivals throwing the word monopoly around to try and unfairly hinder BT? And how excited are you about superfast broadband? Tell me your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook page.

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About the author

Rich Trenholm is a senior editor at CNET where he covers everything from phones to bionic implants. Based in London since 2007, he has travelled the world seeking out the latest and best consumer technology for your enjoyment.

 

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