Ban on BT television services to stay until 2001

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The Independent Online
THE ban on BT using its telephone network to deliver television and other entertainment services is unlikely to be lifted until 2001, according to Oftel, the telecommunications watchdog. Don Cruickshank, director-general of Oftel, said there was no guarantee that it would be lifted even then.

The government-imposed ban was set for 10 years from 1991 with a review by Oftel in 1998. The aim is to allow time for the establishment of cable television companies - now seen as the main competition to BT in local telephone services.

Mr Cruickshank said: 'A review is a review and it will not necessarily lead to any recommendation to government or any change. There are no plans to remove the restrictions and no commitment to do so.'

In evidence to the House of Commons Trade and Industry Select Committee, Mr Cruickshank said the cable companies still had a long way to go in building their networks. He believes investors in cable could be frightened away if the restriction on BT is relaxed.

BT plans to offer some services including the delivery of videos over telephone wires to the home, which is allowed under the current regime. But the company wants complete freedom in the provision of entertainment and argues that, without that ability, it cannot invest in building a fibre-optic network throughout the UK.

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