Last week Internet service providers Freeserve and AOL UK threatened legal action against BT for alleged unfair treatment in the way ADSL installations are being allocated to BT competitors.
Freeserve branded the process a "national disgrace" at a time when a new survey has shown the UK to be ninth in the league of European high-speed Internet penetration.
Patricia Hewitt, minister for small business and e-commerce, defended BT's performance in creating a broadband infrastructure. "There have been a variety of technological problems, which meant that BT has been slower in reaching users than it would have liked but it now seems to be delivering much faster," she said.
Many business users are disappointed with the progress of unbundling. Margaret Smith, director of business technology and delivery at Legal & General, said, "The development of broadband will be the extra boost needed to encourage wider Internet usage. A low-cost, fast yet robust connection would help all users, customers and business partners alike. The lack of easy connectivity is restricting growth in Internet use and impacting on the development of online services."
David Harrington, director general of the Communications Management Association, echoed Freeserve's comments. "It is truly a national disgrace - Oftel really should get a grip."
Freeserve and AOL UK are concerned because although Openworld, BT's ADSL division, has connected 12,000 subscribers and continues to do so at a rate of 1,000-2,000 a week, the engineering allocation means that AOL can add only 20 customers a day, and Freeserve can add only 13 connections a day.