BT yesterday withdrew from industry negotiations with eircom on improving wholesale broadband provision in Ireland saying the incumbent ‘continues to frustrate the progress of LLU and we do not see positive indications that a future change of ownership at the monopoly provider will bring a more progressive approach.’ The talks, which were facilitated by ComReg and attended by the former monopoly, BT, Smart and Magnet Networks, were instigated to implement an automated process for alternative operators to offer broadband services in the last mile. BT said it was ‘with great reluctance’ that it was withdrawing from the talks. Its chief executive Danny McLoughlin added: ’eircom’s stance will jeopardise industry investment and impact on Ireland’s competitiveness.’
One of the main issues for BT’s decision to walk away from the talks was number portability. Although ComReg has a clear obligation to enforce the service under the law, it has not policed it. Commissioner John Doherty said that it was ‘totally unacceptable’ that telecoms users do not have the freedom to keep their existing number when choosing to change service providers. This is set to change, but the alternative operators are unconvinced. Tom Hickey, chairman of the alternative licensed telecoms operators ALTO said that the working group established by ComReg had failed to make any impact. ‘eircom continues to abuse its dominant position in the market and has failed to make any real effort to progress local loop unbundling,’ he said.