Ofcom has announced it is not planning to impose regulations on the provision of so-called 'dark fibre' as part of the current temporary Ethernet market remedies running through to March 2019, but remains sure that 'dark fibre can play an important role in promoting competition in leased lines.'
Ofcom's consultation on the need to add restricted dark fibre provision - the name given to fibre-optic cabling which has been run but which is not yet used, having no light running through it thus being 'dark' - has ended with the conclusion that it is not necessary to add it to the list of temporary regulations under which industry incumbent BT is currently operating, despite concluding that 'dark fibre has an important role where duct and pole access ("DPA") is not an effective remedy, for example because usage restrictions may prevent DPA being used.'
A requirement introduced during a Business Connectivity Market Review in 2016, Ofcom's earlier temporary remedy on dark fibre provision saw BT required to provide unlit fibre cabling to competitors for use at all speeds and on any equipment. BT, naturally, appealed the remedy, and in November last year Ofcom was ordered by tribunal to remove it and other regulatory conditions on Contemporary Interface Symmetric Broadband Origination (CISBO) services. Following the ruling Ofcom consulted on a restricted remedy which would see BT providing dark fibre for services at or below 1Gb/s only, and it's this consultation which has now closed with the decision that such remedies are unnecessary.
While smaller companies planning to use the remedy to introduce rival CISBO services on BT's dark fibre will not be celebrating Ofcom's decision, those who have considerable fibre investment - BT, Virgin Media, and CityFibre - have welcomed it. 'Ofcom’s decision to withdraw its recently proposed restricted Dark Fibre Access remedy recognises that the supply of alternative dark fibre solutions is increasing at pace in many UK towns and cities,' claims Mark Collins, Director of strategy and policy at CityFibre, of Ofcom's announcement. 'The decision to stimulate infrastructure competition rather than impose deeper regulation of BT Openreach’s products is consistent with Ofcom’s strategy to reduce the UK’s dependency on Openreach and is warmly welcomed by CityFibre.'