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Telecoms giant BT hits customers with hike in line rental


Telecoms giant BT has hit customers with a 9% hike in the cost of its line rental saver scheme just weeks after promising free live Premier League action to its broadband customers.

The group has increased its Line Rental Saver Plan, which allows customers a better deal by paying a year advance, from £129 to £141 from June 1.

BT denied the move was linked to its push into sports broadcasting, which is seeing the firm muscle in on Sky's dominance of sport after winning a three-year deal to show 38 Premier League games a season.

The group said: "Line Rental Saver continues to offer a generous discount of 23% on the price of our standard line rental, saving customers £44 a year."

"This increase, which is the first for 14 months, does not affect existing Line Rental Saver customers. Customers who take standard line rental from BT will benefit from our price freeze until 2014" it added.

A spokeswoman stressed there was "no link whatsoever between these price changes and our investment in sports rights".

BT said last month it would offer BT Sport for free to broadband customers as it goes head to head with Sky.

It spent £738 million on acquiring the live rights to Premier League games.

The group also announced a host of big names to front its coverage.

Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand has been signed up by BT as a football expert, joining Tottenham's Gareth Bale and Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Double Champions League winners Owen Hargreaves and Steve McManaman and former England goalkeeper David James have also been signed up as football experts to its sports channels, which will be called BT Sport 1, BT Sport 2 and ESPN.

Commentators will include former England striker Michael Owen, Ian Darke and Darren Fletcher.

BT Sport will run from three studios in the broadcast centre used by the world's media during the London 2012 Games in Stratford, east London.

Its channels will also show 69 live Aviva Premiership rugby games per season, plus live football from leagues in Germany, France, Italy and Brazil.

Coverage will be anchored by former BBC man Jake Humphrey, while Clare Balding will present a weekly sports show.

The sports channels will launch in August.

BT revealed profits jumped 21% to £833 million in the quarter to March 31, while it also added another 136,000 retail broadband customers in the period.

But it is offsetting mammoth investment by cutting costs and recently said it was looking to make savings of around £200 million a year and that it was expecting £400 million in "specific restructuring costs" in the current financial year.

Staff are expected to be impacted after BT said this would involve some "people costs" as some employees would be given "the option to pursue other activities". But no compulsory redundancies are expected.