BT and TalkTalk in superfast broadband spat

TalkTalk’s Dido Harding and BT’s John Petter have butted heads over fibre optic, with BT accused of monopolisation and TalkTalk ‘opportunism’. But who’s right and what does it all mean?

A row - well, a spat at least - has broken out between TalkTalk and BT following an article by TalkTalk CEO Dido Harding in the Daily Telegraph.

In the piece, which was itself a response to an earlier interview with BT's consumer chief executive John Petter, Harding expressed concern that competition in the broadband industry is declining, as a result of BT's rising monopoly over the UK's fibre optic broadband infrastructure.

A large percentage of the UK's fibre optic cable network is owned by BT, and many other providers, including TalkTalk, use that infrastructure to deliver fibre to customers. That's why if you can get BT Infinity, you can often get fibre other providers too. The exception to the rule is Virgin Media, which operates its own cable network.

However, BT has a much larger market share of fibre customers than its rivals, which Harding argues is bad news for the likes of you and me.

"Compared with standard broadband, the superfast market is fundamentally less competitive," she writes.

"BT's market share is double what it has in copper, take-up is still lower than you might expect and, by pricing it at a premium, BT is driving up costs for families and businesses when they can least afford it."

Harding called for UK communications regualtor Ofcom to step in and regulate the fibre market to ensure fairer wholesale prices - what other providers have to pay to BT to use its network - so that the likes of TalkTalk can offer lower-cost fibre packages to customers.

However, in a letter to the Telegraph, Petter hit back at Harding's claims, accusing TalkTalk of "special pleading and opportunism".

He wrote: "The regulator, Ofcom, rejected her [Dido Harding's] claims of anti-competitive margin squeeze behaviour and found BT innocent.

"Harding's charge that prices for fibre optic broadband prices are high is contradicted by Ofcom data that the UK has faster speeds and lower prices than other parts of Europe, as well as by the many low-priced offers available, such as our 'fibre for a fiver' campaign."

Whichever side you come down on in the argument, fibre optic broadband is typically more expensive than standard copper wire broadband. However, it's often possible to find a deal or special offer that cuts the cost considerably by using a comparison site to check your options before signing up.

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Do you agree with BT or TalkTalk? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Source: The Telegraph

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