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Ofcom puts UK’s largest privately funded infrastructure programme at risk

More than £25bn worth of investment to improve the UK’s digital infrastructure will be directly threatened if BT Openreach is allowed to introduce new wholesale price discounts, Ofcom has been told.

The independent network sector says the regulator must rethink its preliminary decision to allow the incumbent’s Equinox 2 plan – or risk undermining the Government’s strategy for a healthy competitive market that drives nationwide full fibre coverage.

It looks like BT Openreach is attempting to actively re-establish the monopoly it enjoyed in the copper market, over the UK’s full fibre future. INCA CEO Malcolm Corbett says that the plans will deliberately make it harder for new entrants to compete in the full fibre market.

“The Government’s policy of encouraging competitive investment has been hugely successful with more than £25bn of investment committed to BT’s competitors. Allowing Equinox 2 to be implemented would have a serious negative effect, undermining the investment incentives for altnets of all sizes, across all business models, and would put the UK’s largest privately funded infrastructure programme at risk,” said Corbett.

“Ofcom’s assessment of the Equinox 2 offer appears to reflect a strong bias to protect BT Openreach’s full fibre business plan and has a complete disregard for the many smaller market entrants and the billions of pounds invested in those networks. This also runs counter to the digital infrastructure policies of the Government, largely being driven by private sector investment, and which underpin the ambitions of the new Department for Infrastructure Science and Technology.

INCA has submitted a formal response to Ofcom after it issued a 30-day consultation on 3 February 2023 on its preliminary view “to take no action at this time to prevent the Equinox 2 Offer terms from being introduced”.