The media regulator Ofcom has demanded BT open up its superfast broadband network to rivals, a move it called a "milestone" in meeting the Government's target of creating the best broadband infrastructure in Europe.
The watchdog set out a new regulatory framework designed "to promote competition and investment in superfast broadband services across the UK". The measures will allow rivals including BSkyB and TalkTalk to offer superfast broadband to their clients on BT's network. Ofcom also called on the telecom giant to open up its ducts and telegraph poles should rivals want to install their own cables.
Ed Richards, the chief executive of Ofcom, said: "This is very, very significant, it is a milestone announcement," adding: "This is our most important contribution to deployment." As part of the regulatory framework, Ofcom said it would not impose a pricing structure on BT for the service.
BT pointed out that it has provided access to its superfast service to rivals for months. The group is investing heavily in fibre optics, expanding its network from the current 2 million premises to 4 million by the end of the year.
James Allen, a partner at Analysys Mason, said: "The news is in keeping with what Ofcom has said in the past. This will go some way to driving take-up of superfast broadband in the UK."
Earlier this year, the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt pledged to bring in the "best superfast broadband network in Europe" by 2015. Currently coverage is behind Belgium, Portugal and the Netherlands. Mr Richards said: "The UK is not in a bad place, but we want it to go further and faster," adding the new framework "will significantly help deployment" across the country.