The Financial Times is reporting that British Telecom (NYSE:BT, news, filings) and the UK regulator Ofcom are discussing the opening of the incumbent operators ducts. That could of course lead to big changes throughout the UK bandwidth sector, since in theory it would inable operators to pull their own fiber for many, many routes without having to dig up the streets. That could in turn eventually lead to many more networks competing at multiple levels throughout the marketplace.
Now of course BT wouldn't even think about this if they weren't under some pretty heavy pressure - apparently the Conservative party is threatening to force the move if they win this spring. But I do think that it is a bit early to be breaking out the champagne. They're just talking, they're not necessarily agreeing. ILECs and PTTs like to use these sort of discussions to slow things down when they can't stop them. Here's the actual quote by BT CEO Ian Livingstone:
"We told Ofcom last year we're willing to provide open access to our ducts . . . and we are working with them on how to achieve it. Although it's unlikely to be the silver bullet to get fibre to every home, open access to all ducts, not just ours, might help BT and others extend coverage and so we would like to see a future government support such a move."
Hmmm, 'all ducts, not just ours'... Curious how the press interprets that as BT's ducts being opened, sounds to me like BT is trying to widen the scope of the idea in order to find some allies. But really, the devil is in the details here - what exactly would they mean by open access? It's harder than the politicians make it sound. But on the other hand it probably means more traffic growth and more competition no matter how you slice it, so hopefully they manage to put together something that works.