BT must physically unbundle… someday

Uk_dp A press release yesterday by the EC states that the commission accepts Ofcom's proposal to enforce only Active Line Access (now called VULA) wholesaling of the FTTC and FTTH that BT is deploying. The EC adds a provision though that

The Commission emphasises that telecoms regulators should, as a matter
of principle, mandate unbundled access to the fibre loop irrespective of
the network architecture used by the dominant operator. The Commission
stressed that a VULA remedy should be just a transitory measure and
should be replaced by fibre unbundling as soon as it is technically and
economically feasible. Only fibre unbundling will give alternative
operators full and direct control over the product they offer to

It's something of a contradictory decision, because the EC states that they agree that VULA (I hate this notion of "virtual unbundling", it's not unbundling, full stop…) will allow for a competitive environment especially given that Openreach is functionally separated, but at the same time they state that real competition will only be driven by real unbundling.

The irony (in my mind) is this "as soon as it is technically and economically feasible". I'm sometimes overly cynical, but it seems to me quite easy for BT to ensure that it never is technically or economically feasible. Their current PON unbundling (what little of it there is) has probably been designed to not allow for unbundling. Their VDSL might be easier to unbundle technically, but I seriously doubt the SLU economics make sense for competitors. Furthermore, since OFCOM was behind the big push for VULA, it's hard to imagine that they would now enforce technical constraints on Openreach to ensure physical unbundling.

In other words, this looks like a victory for BT and the end of BT's fiber unbundling in Britain, now or ever…