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Countryside Alliance hails rural wholesale broadband ruling

Thursday, July 21st 2011 by Paul France
Rural wholesale broadband plans welcomed by Countryside Alliance

The campaign group said Ofcom's ruling on wholesale charges will help to close the digital divide.

The Countryside Alliance has expressed satisfaction at Ofcom's decision to force BT to slash the amount it charges for wholesale access to its broadband network.

Under the regulator's new ruling, the telecoms giant must reduce the price it demands from rival internet service providers (ISPs) by 12 per cent below inflation per year.

This measure will only affect residents and businesses in parts of the UK that Ofcom believes do not currently have sufficient competition for broadband packages. These places are primarily rural, less populated areas such as the West Country, Norfolk and Yorkshire.

Long-term campaigner for cheaper rural broadband the Countryside Alliance welcomed the news, stating it is "delighted" with the telecoms watchdog's decision.

"People living in the countryside have been left behind in the digital divide for far too long and it is vital that they have effective and affordable broadband if their rural economies are to grow and prosper," a spokesperson for the lobbying group said.

According to Ofcom, the move could benefit around three million homes and businesses in more remote parts of the UK by driving down broadband prices to end users.

The regulator also believes the level of the charge controls will encourage others ISPs to roll out their own networks to compete with BT's wholesale operation.

However, not all campaign groups are in favour of Ofcom's ruling, with Wispa Ltd arguing the reduction in prices has actually given BT less reason to invest in rural communities.

The body also claimed consumers are unlikely to benefit from the change, as wholesale bandwidth only represents a "very small proportion" of the costs needed to deliver fast internet services to the countryside.

All of this means rural broadband will end up worse off than it is at present, the organisation insisted.

Richard Brown of Wispa Ltd remarked: "Ofcom are either clueless, witless or toothless - it's difficult to make my mind up as to which it is."

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