Superfast broadband customers will be offered cheaper and shorter deals and be able to switch more easily between providers under plans to open up BT's fibre cable network to more competition.

Regulator Ofcom wants rival suppliers to be able to buy wholesale access to BT's Openreach network for as little as a month, rather than the current minimum of a year.

This means they would have the flexibility to offer contracts which don't tie customers in for long periods. (See Cheap Broadband for the best current deals.)

In addition, it says a one-off £50 fee for access, which is often passed on to customers, should be reduced to between £10-£15.

Ofcom adds its proposals would see the wholesale cost of switching a customer from one firm to another fall by up to 80%. Its plans are now out for consultation.

An Ofcom spokesperson says customers should benefit through "lower retail prices and easier switching between superfast broadband providers".

BT is rolling out its superfast fibre network across the country and the Government has pledged to subsidise part of the programme. But some critics are unhappy about the way it sells wholesale access so other firms can use the technology.

However, the regulator stopped short of setting controls on the rate BT charges its rivals to use its network. It said its fees were already pegged back by competition with rival Virgin Media, as well as the availability of standard broadband networks.