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Has BT's rollout plans reduced competition?
Saturday 08 May 2004 15:58:00 by Andrew Ferguson

Over on ZDNet Graeme Wearden has highlighted the concerns of some parties in response to BT's recent planned ADSL roll-out announcement. His full article can be accessed here.

One example given is that Everywhere Broadband has pulled its proposed launch of a satellite broadband service. Also it is mentioned that some community projects feel as if BT has thrown a spanner in their works.

The question really is, is it unfair of BT to rollout ADSL in the manner it has, or should it have ceased the rollout and allowed the patch work of broadband providers to actually attempt to provide a service? A great many of the community lead projects will work well, and provide a valuable service to a local community by people with the communities aims at it heart. The problem is that these lead to a patchy and incoherent service, and the great bulk of opinion has been calling for a uniform service. BT's Home 500/1000 is pretty much this now, there is still a place for community projects running local webcams, and providing what BT does not. The BT ADSL platform does not stop this, nor does it preclude wireless projects providing low cost community access. BT's rollout announcement does mean a change to the way many projects work, but if the plan was good it should be able to adapt and survive. Since November 2003, it has been clear that BT would probably get ADSL to almost all the exchanges it had given triggers to.

It must be noted that in areas where NTL and Telewest co-exist with ADSL, the reports are that NTL and Telewest still do very well, often outselling ADSL in those areas. So it is possible to co-exist, but only if your product is at the right price point, and offers good service.

The question is basically, is the UK better off with just under 50% of its exchanges ADSL enabled via BT, or should BT have left the remainder of the UK to growing band of other commercial/community projects? Remember there is still choice of 100's of service providers once BT has enabled an exchange, in fact it is perfectly possible for a community based ISP to be set-up, so that profits can be put back into community projects.

The real challenge facing broadband now, is getting people to actually use it. The level of dial-up Internet usage in the UK is lower than the take-up of broadband solutions in other countries. Which either suggests cultural differences, or a lack of education as to what you can do. The Internet and particularly always-on broadband offers the same degree of information revolution as the telegraph system of the 1850's.


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