Business: Competition

Trade and Industry written question – answered on 27th March 2007.

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Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Chair, Trade & Industry Committee

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions he has had with Ofcom on its plans for fostering competition in the market for business and small and medium-sized enterprises communications services as part of its policy objectives for 2007 and 2008.

Photo of Margaret Hodge Margaret Hodge Minister of State (Industry and the Regions)

I meet regularly with representatives of the independent regulator Ofcom (the Office of Communications) to discuss a wide range of issues. SMEs use a number of communication services including voice lines, calls, internet access/broadband and leased lines. In each of these Ofcom is taking various steps to increase the level of competition and choice for businesses including:

Supporting development of local loop unbundling (LLU) by allowing BT's competitors to install equipment in BT exchanges. Where this occurs, for the first time, consumers have a choice of companies from which to rent telephone lines, as well as a wider choice than before of telecommunications packages.

Improving wholesale line rental (WLR) product and moving to "equivalence". This means that BT Retail has to purchase WLR from BT Wholesale in exactly the same manner as its competitors, and ensures a more level playing field, particularly in areas where no competitors of BT have decided to install equipment in the BT exchange.

Reviewing the leased line market (typically used by businesses needing a network to connect offices around the country) to ensure that remedies introduced in 2004 to improve retail competition remain appropriate.

In addition, I have had several discussions with Ofcom about their ongoing approach to spectrum management, so as to provide a competitive environment for SMEs and others conducive to innovation.

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