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A fibre broadband monopoly is hampering the rollout of next-generation services in the UK, a leading industry figure has claimed.

Dido Harding, Chief Executive at TalkTalk, claimed the UK broadband sector has benefited from fair and open competition over the past few years, but this is now in decline.

Writing for the Telegraph, she warned that the fibre broadband market is "fundamentally less competitive" than the copper equivalent, since BT has too much power.

"BT’s market share is double what it has in copper, take-up is still lower than you might expect and by pricing it at a premium, BT is driving up costs for families and businesses when they can least afford it," Ms Harding claimed.

She noted that up to £1.5 billion of public sector money could be handed to BT to build a national infrastructure asset that "a significant portion of society cannot afford to access".

Ms Harding expressed concern that BT is exploiting its position - as the owner of the UK's fibre network - to margin-squeeze its competitors.

"Ofcom recognises the danger and is proposing a minimum margin requirement between the price BT wholesales to competitors and the price it charges consumers," she explained.

"That is an essential step towards guaranteeing a competitive market."

Ms Harding said TalkTalk would like to charge consumers less for fibre broadband services, but the company is "hamstrung by the fact a monopoly gets to set the wholesale price we pay".

She said the wholesale price of fibre should come down once Ofcom regulates, and this will promote take-up of super-fast services.

"It will particularly help the most hard-pressed consumers and emerging small businesses - the very people who stand to gain most from being online," Ms Harding added.

"Broadband is too important to our economy, our businesses and our lives to allow a monopoly to damage competition and price it beyond the means of millions."

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