In hopes of boosting competition in the British broadband sector and the expansion of broadband services to rural areas, U.K. telecommunications regulator Ofcom has issued rules that require dominant national carrier BT Group to share its fiber network facilities with rival providers. The decision caps a consultative process that began in March and, in the words of an Ofcom spokesman, is intended to “give other companies control of the lines to provide super-fast broadband services to their own customers.” BT, whose top residential broadband service competitors are Talk-Talk Telecom Group, British Sky Broadcasting and Virgin Media, is investing US$3.97 billion to deploy a national fiber-optic broadband network that will reach upwards of 17 million homes by 2015. The company expects to connect up to four million customers to that network by the end of this year. Under Ofcom’s “virtual unbundling” directive, BT must share its fiber network facilities with other Internet service providers (ISPs), although BT will be allowed to set its own prices for network access. In areas not served by BT’s fiber network, the carrier must offer ISPs access to underground ducts and above-ground poles to which rivals may attach their own infrastructure. While noting that, in areas served by BT’s fiber network, “the remedies will enable other providers to offer . . . services based on BT’s facilities,” Ofcom declared that, “elsewhere, access to BT’s ducts and poles should encourage investment by other providers, enable the provision of superfast services and increasing competition.” By mid-January, BT must file a draft document with Ofcom that details its available network capacity and the quality of its ducts and poles. Sources also say that the directive will help fulfill the British government’s goal of providing all citizens with access to basic broadband services of 2 Mbps or higher by 2015.g