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Ofcom to BT: Slash cost of switching fibre-optic broadband provider

Telecoms watchdog Ofcom has asked BT to cut charges levied to rival companies for customers changing fibre-optic broadband provider, a move which could reduce the end-charge to consumers by up to 80 per cent.

Currently, if a user wishes to change their fibre-optic broadband, BT will charge the new provider £50 for making the change. Companies such as BSkyB and TalkTalk rent BT's fibre-optic network.

Ofcom has asked that this charge be reduced to between £10 and £15, a saving which it hopes will be passed onto the customer.

Under the proposals, Ofcom has also asked BT to reduce the minimum length of contract offered to companies from one year to one month. It is hoped this will lead to shorter contract lengths and more flexibility for customers.

Ofcom said: "The proposals are designed to promote competition in the superfast broadband market at the wholesale level. These would be expected to flow through to consumer benefits in the form of lower retail prices and easier switching between superfast broadband providers."

There are currently just 1.4 million households and businesses in the UK with the super-fast connection, which offers speeds more than double that offered through copper broadband services.

BT has said its fibre-optic broadband network will reach two-thirds of the country by early-2014.

Ofcom has also asked that BT's Openreach engineers, which instal fibre-optic broadband, provide a faster service. The waiting time is currently nine days.

BSKyB and TalkTalk welcomed the proposals. It has also been revealed that the two companies have asked to be allowed access to BT's fibre-optic network in order to instal their own equipment.

A BSkyB spokesperson said: "We have submitted a set of requirements for an unbundled fibre-to-the-cabinet service to BT and the rest of industry."

A TalkTalk spokesperson added: "TalkTalk has consistently maintained that fibre is too important for future economic growth to be monopolised by BT, and that for this reason access to fibre must be regulated."

The regulator has asked for responses to its proposals by 25 September and have said they will not impose the price regulation until 2017.

"We are pleased that Ofcom is maintaining pricing freedom for Openreach's fibre products. BT has already accepted a long payback period for its fibre deployment and its wholesale fibre prices - which are amongst the lowest in Europe - reflect this," a BT representative commented.

Tomas is co-founder of Lucky Pilgrim, a team of journalists, photographers and art directors who connect brands to audiences through words, imagery and design. He was formerly editorial director at Chapel and managing editor at Courier magazine, and was a writer for ITProPortal as well as The Independent, EastLondonLines, The Sunday Times Magazine, and Croon.