UK ISPs can now nominate which BT exchanges they want upgraded to fiber, but only if they agree to strict penalty clauses.
BT’s Openreach wholesale division will trial the nomination scheme until December, allowing rival firms to choose six exchanges to be upgraded during a future phase of BT’s fiber rollout.
However, only 24 exchanges are included in the trial, and only firms running BT’s Generic Ethernet Access product can participate.
Strict rules mean that companies choosing exchanges must sign up 10% of homes in that area within a year of the upgrade or pay the cost of amending BTs deployment plan.
A second requirement that ISPs pay to upgrade sites deemed uneconomic could widen the digital divide by focusing attention only on profitable sites, critics told V3.co.uk.
Other skeptics say the rules effectively mean ISPs are underwriting some of the risk of BT’s fiber deployment as the scheme moves into later phases that cover less profitable exchanges, PCPro.co.uk reported.
David Campbell, managing director of next-generation access at Openreach, said the firm was “going the extra mile,” for its customers, and said it would consider extending the scheme if all eligible ISPs took part.
BT is spending £2.5 billion (€2.9 billion) constructing a next-generation fiber network that aims to connect 16.5 million premises by end 2015.