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BT to Ofcom : make others pay for Universal Service Obligation costs

BT could "throttle" its commitment to roll out its 21CN brand new fiber optic network nationwide, according to the new BT chief executive, Ian Livingston.

According to the Sunday Times (opens in new tab), the incumbent BT head honcho "challenged" the telecoms regulator Ofcom to review his company's universal service obligation (USO) under which BT has the duty to provide a fixed-line service everywhere in Britain even if it does so at a cost.

BT, he said, was not alone in a market which counts 200 or more service providers and as a privatised company cannot afford the responsibility of maintaining USO, especially since this would mean that BT will have to maintain two separate networks.

Livingston gave the example of the armada of 24000 that BT needs to operate at a loss, in an era where most people use their mobile phones to make calls.

The 21st Century Network on which BT is banking to catch up with the rest of Europe, will necessitate an investment of nearly £15 billion over more than a decade, during which USO will cost BT anywhere between £500 million and £1 billion.

If Ofcom agrees to BT's requests, we could see a multi-tiered access to high speed broadband, similar to the way broadband was originally deployed in Britain; although wireless technologies will be matured enough to alleviate the digital divide.

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.