The Scottish government argues that an offer by BT Group (LON:BT.A) to provide broadband infrastructure to 99 percent of the UK risks extending its monopoly in rural areas, the BBC has reported. The news comes after the telco recently offered to spend up to £600 million on upgrading internet speeds for more than one million rural homes.
BT’s share price has been subdued in London in today’s session, having lost 0.51 percent to 314.40p as of 13:21 BST, underperforming the broader UK market, with the benchmark FTSE 100 index currently standing 0.03 percent lower at 7,529.59 points. The telco’s shares have lost more than 22 percent of their value over the past year, and are down by some 14 percent in the year-to-date.
The BBC reported today that Scottish ministers had said in a letter to Culture Secretary Karen Bradley that BT’s proposal to provide broadband infrastructure to 99 percent of the UK put at risk plans to have superfast broadband in all properties. Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing called for the deal to be rejected.
The Scottish government’s R100 programme aims to deliver speeds of up to 30Mbps to all properties in Scotland by 2021.
“The emerging USO proposal risks undermining that engagement by apparently concluding that it will not be commercially viable for any provider other than BT to deliver in white areas,” Ewing’s letter said, as quoted by the BBC. “What has emerged as a result risks entrenching, even extending, BT's monopoly position in rural areas and could deter alternative suppliers from bidding for R100 contracts.”
The comments came after news emerged last week that BT had volunteered to extend coverage to 99 percent of the population by the end of the decade, following government threats to create a legally binding requirement to supply high-speed broadband.