Ofcom unveils temporary measures for business connectivity after BT's dark fibre appeal win

UK regulator Ofcom has unveiled a set of temporary rules for dark fibre after BT successfully challenged its previous plans in court earlier this year.

Ofcom has said it is revoking and re-examining the rules it laid out in the 2016 Business Connectivity Market Review that BT successfully appealed against in a Competition Tribunal earlier this year.

BT’s infrastructure division Openreach, which became a legally separate entity following an Ofcom ruling earlier this year, was due to launch a dark fibre access product. This would have given its rivals access to Openreach’s existing fibre cables, meaning they could install their own equipment ad have more control over their broadband networks.

BT challenged Ofcom over its review into the product, which it claimed could deter investment, and ultimately won, with the CAT finding the regulator had used ”incorrect” market definitions, throwing its plans into disarray.

In response, the UK regulator has moved to introduce temporary measures while it reviews its market definitions. These will be applied in markets where “it remains clear that BT has significant market power” in order to “safeguard competition” and “protect the interests of consumers”.

The temporary conditions include the following changes from the position in 2016:

• There is no longer regulation of services above 1Gbit/s (‘Very High Bandwidth’).

• Ofcom has also removed all regulation from the central business districts of Birmingham, Glasgow and Leeds.

Ofcom added in a statement: “The temporary regulations apply to services at and below 1Gbit/s and include: access requirements, charge controls, and minimum quality standards for these ‘Lower Bandwidth’ Ethernet leased lines. These conditions are broadly in line with those set in the 2016 BCMR.”

The new dark fibre consultation is due to close on 29 December, with further information likely to be released early next year, Ofcom said.

An Openreach spokesperson said:  “We’re very surprised by Ofcom’s decision and disappointed given the clarity of the CAT judgement and Openreach’s commitment to developing new, alternative products which can meet the demand for Dark Fibre.”

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