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A coalition of many of the UK's biggest business broadband providers are challenging BT and telecoms regulator Ofcom over the so-called monopoly that BT has over the industry.

This week, the UK Competitive Telecoms Association (UKCTA), which includes Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk, EE and Vodafone among its membership, will bid to dislodge BT from its pre-eminent position in the business broadband market.

A key argument is they want more control of high-capacity data links, and - as such - are calling on Ofcom to give them the right to lay their own cables in BT ducts, as well as using their own equipment to control BT's cables - a practice dubbed 'dark fibre'.

The coalition's key argument is that the legal separation of Openreach has not only resulted in falling prices and rising speeds for consumers, but has enabled BT to throttle competition, while also stifling innovation and resulting in below-par customer service.

Figures compiled by the UKCTA suggest that Openreach has yet to meet some of its performance targets in five years, with a knock-on effect on both companies and consumer broadband providers.

The UKCTA is now calling on Ofcom's new chief executive to put the issue at the top of the regulator's agenda, when he or she is appointed next year.

A spokesperson for the coalition stated: "Ofcom’s focus has now moved from competition to intrusive sector-specific consumer protection measures, often duplicating general consumer protection measures.

"UKCTA calls on Ofcom to return its focus to championing competition, which will drive innovation and enhance choice and the protection of consumers."

In response, Ofcom said it makes "no apology" for protecting consumers, and that it goes hand-in-hand with promoting competition, while adding that its key aim as a regulator is ensuring that customers benefit not only from innovation, but also from good quality of service and a "fair deal".

BT, meanwhile, claimed the market is "vibrant" and that competition is actually growing, which supports the case for further deregulation, if anything.

Forcing Openreach to offer access to its ducts or dark fibre would increase costs and add extra complexity to the way UK businesses are served, BT claims.

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