Rural broadband to get cheaper

If you live in the countryside, you’ll soon be able to shop around several different providers for a broadband deal.

Rural homes and businesses that can only get online using BT broadband could be set for cheaper broadband if new Ofcom plans go ahead.

BT is the sole provider for some three million homes and businesses around the country who cannot shop around for an alternative deal.

But now telecoms regulator Ofcom has set out plans to reduce the amount BT Wholesale charges rival providers by between 10.75% and 14.75%. BT Wholesale is the branch of BT which sells use of the BT network to other broadband providers, such as Orange and Plusnet.

The plans are currently still in the consultation process with the exact price reductions to be revealed later in the year.

As well as bringing cheaper broadband through increased competition, "the changes may also lead to better quality services by enabling broadband providers to allocate more bandwidth per customer, which could deliver faster broadband services," said Ofcom.

The changes could also encourage BT Wholesale to invest in faster broadband capable of delivering speeds up to 24Mb - something that many rural areas cannot receive at the moment. The faster broadband requires investment in a technology known as ADSL2+.

A spokesman for BT said: "BT understands Ofcom's desire to move from voluntary to more formal wholesale broadband pricing controls in the most rural parts of the country, given this defined market is getting smaller as deregulation expands elsewhere."

"It is key that the details strike the right balance between control and incentives to invest in rural areas. As the UK's main investor in rural broadband, we will engage fully in the consultation process which follows to make our case."

Michael Phillips, product director, welcomed the announcement. "Any increase in competition for rural broadband customers is a good thing," he said. "As big cities are speeding ahead with superfast broadband and falling prices, many rural areas pay over-the-odds for a slower service.

"Ofcom's proposals could go some way towards bridging the rural digital divide."

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