Competition for customers in the broadband internet market is hotter than ever, with more opportunities than ever for service providers.
Figures from the communications regulator Ofcom have revealed that the number of unbundled lines – where rival providers such as Sky or TalkTalk can offer services over BT's copper telephone network – has passed the seven million mark.
The expansion in the number of these lines has opened up the number of options available to consumers that want to benefit from broadband interest services.
It has also driven the cost of broadband downwards.
The catalyst for the increase in unbundled lines was the ruling made by Ofcom in September 2005 which meant BT was obliged to provide services to rivals.
At the time, there were little over 120,000 unbundled lines in the UK, meaning the majority of people could only get their broadband and telephone from BT.
There are now over 19 million broadband lines in the UK. Of these, more than 70% are provided by companies other than BT, many on the basis of unbundled lines.
Today there are over 30 different companies offering unbundled services to homes and small businesses, which have helped to drive up broadband take-up and drive down fixed-line prices.
In September 2005, 37% of households and small businesses had broadband; today the figure is 71%.
Competition for customers has led to lower bills, a welcome relief in what are difficult financial times.
Consumers were paying on average £23.30 a month (excluding VAT) for a broadband service delivered over a copper phone line in the last quarter of 2005.
Today they are paying an average of £13.31 for the same service.
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