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Does BT spell big trouble for rural broadband projects?
Friday 05 November 2010 10:47:29 by Andrew Ferguson

When the BT Group does not bring its fibre based services to an area it is accused of ignoring an area, but if it does bring it to an area it can be accused of being a monopoly and using its might to crush any local initiatives. The latter is what Dr Charles Trotman at the Country Land and Business Association is saying.

"We've experienced problems and concerns with BT coming into the marketplace and taking over projects"

Dr Charles Trotman, head of rural business development at the Country Land & Business Association

The BT Group is currently not judged to have a monopoly across the whole of the UK, but once you are into the Final Third territory they often are the only telco willing to provide services such as fibre backhaul, or other providers willing to offer connectivity are reliant on things like BT ducting to cover that last 15 or 20 miles from their own national backbone.

Is the solution to this behaviour to exclude BT from projects in the final third area? The problems doing this are that you may simply create a new behemoth that is in an even better position to abuse its power, for example only providing one retail provider that businesses and residents can order their service from.

In an ideal world BT would actually announce its full list of locations of where it is rolling out FTTC and which locations will get FTTP. This would allow community and other projects to plan accordingly, but this presumes that BT actually knows exactly where it wants to install its products. To some extent areas can judge where they would be on the roll-out of fibre products, in that if you had basic ADSL services prior to 2004, then fibre is pretty likely. If your area still only offers BT Wholesale ADSL Max up to 8Meg services currently then the probability of BT rolling out fibre is very low.

At the end of the day, many of the firms involved in providing faster broadband to areas where BT is unwilling to go still have to satisfy the owners or venture capitalists providing the money. This is why BT frequently behaves the way it does, i.e. it needs to provide a dividend each year to shareholders. Not for profit community solutions are possible, but remember while the network build process can be achieved swiftly, it is the 365 day a year running of the network that will be the bulk of the cost in years to come- customer support, billing, infrastructure repairs all add up. The problems are not insurmountable, while many broadband projects from the 2002/2003 era vanished, some continue and are at the vanguard of broadband speeds, showing it is possible. The question is, can their success be scaled up?

Comments

Posted by Somerset over 6 years ago
24x7 support is key to any solution.

In places with eg. 4M it could be difficult to persuade the majority that there is a need for anything faster at present.
Posted by Legolash2o over 6 years ago
One thing i have noticed is that ISPs dont give a reason to have Broadband, they say upto xx, xx download usage, free email, blah blah.

But they still dont say why the should get broadband in the first place. What advantages it will bring them, etc..
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
So I've read the PCPro article what local projects has BT gazumped then? It described one but doesn't name it.

So.. just one, unnamed one then?
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
@Lego:That's because it's all but impossible to explain why the majority should want more than a couple of Megabits. People want web browsing, email and (God knows why) Facebook. Maybe Twitter.

None of those needs more than a couple of Mb/s.

The kind of things that need more than that (TV/Films basically) are already available in other ways. I suppose there might be a few fools around who think IPTV means free content but most people realise that what they currently pay Sky or VM is the market price and IPTV will carry the same costs.
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
So that's why ISPs don't explain why we need the higher levels of bandwidth. Even a family is unlikely to 'need' more than 8Mb/s.

In my opinion a better use of FTTC would be in the no- and slow- spots. Those poor sods will benefit from it.

Unfortunately they tend to be in areas where the RoI rules it out :(
Posted by Legolash2o over 6 years ago
Im was not on about speeds, i mean ok i know the packages but still "why do i need broadband? how will it benefit me?"

Some people especially old ones dont know what you can do on broadband i.e. chat with family (grandchildren) and friends and keep in touch, save money by comparison websites, online tv, banking, etc..
Posted by Legolash2o over 6 years ago
you assumed that i was on about ISPs not saying why they need new broadband, i was on about ISPs not saying why people should get broadband altogether.
Posted by Legolash2o over 6 years ago
For example the town i live in is mostly populated by the elderly, who have no idea what broadband is, so ISPs and groups need to do a better job at telling people the benefits of broadband and they should need it.

Yes groups already do this but it would help ISPs to say why they need broadband in the first place, then they may notice an increase in demand.
Posted by Legolash2o over 6 years ago
"In my opinion a better use of FTTC would be in the no- and slow- spots. Those poor sods will benefit from it."

I completely agree with that statement, but eventually (20 years) they will need FTTP, technology has grown soo much in the last 20 years who knows what another 20 years will be like. In the last 5 there has been a massive massive increase of internet enabled devices.

Cities = FTTP
Towns/Villages = FTTC
Posted by Legolash2o over 6 years ago
I have to admit FTTC will do for me, for a long long time, but it would still be better to roll out FTTP skipping FTTC for the long run.

Seriously although i think FTTP would be the best solution, i and probably everyone else would be happy with FTTC...
Posted by c_j_ over 6 years ago
"I've read the PCPro article what local projects has BT gazumped then?"

This goes back further than fibre.

The starting answer would be anything that went out to open tender which BT eventually won. E.g. universal access in Northern Ireland.

A more specific answer would be more local projects such as a couple I know of in North Wales: the council's "Anglesey Connected" was set up because Anglesey was "DSL not economically viable" and derailed when DSL arrived, ditto the wireless network in Penrhyndeudraeth area.

Eventually it puts people off.
Posted by c_j_ over 6 years ago
"24x7 support is key to any solution."

Why? Most ISPs don't offer 24x7 support today. Most punters wouldn't see availability of 24x7 support as a major factor in choosing a technology or an ISP. Coverage, yes. Price, yes. 24x7 support, maybe, for a few folks.

"In places with eg. 4M it could be difficult to persuade the majority that there is a need for anything faster at present."

That I will happily agree with. But where 4M isn't available...
Posted by Somerset over 6 years ago
If I used my connection for a business I would want to be able to report a fault on a Friday at 10pm and hope someone would look at it before Monday.

Also people are used to ISP support being able to look at the PC setup etc. so as Andrew says support is more complex that the initial setup.
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
I'm not sure that excluding BT from the final third will help the final third. Its not like other telco's are going to suddenly dive in as its rich pickings.
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
@GMAN99:Well no. LLU has shown how far the other telcos will go. As for cable - we have VM as an example.

There's only one company with a presence in 99% of exchanges. Criticise it all you want - there is only one that for whatever reason sees value in every exchange.
Posted by c_j_ over 6 years ago
"If I used my connection for a business I would want to be able to report a fault on a Friday at 10pm and hope someone would look at it before Monday."

You don't get that with Openreach today (in most cases).

"people are used to ISP support being able to look at the PC setup etc"

How does remote access work when Joe Public's broadband is bust? "Looking at PC setup" could be an argument in favour of *local* community based ISPs where the support person can actually visit the customer. Big is not always beatiful, as any user of BT overseas call centres will confirm.
Posted by New_Londoner over 6 years ago
I have to say that the story as reported, the quote from the Country Land & Business Association, and the quote from INCA in the original PC Pro article are so devoid of detail as to be worthless.

It would appear as if they are asking for local monoply status in order to allow unspecified projects to succeed. This does beg questions regarding the viability of these projects if they are unable to withstand competition.

Contd.
Posted by New_Londoner over 6 years ago
Not convinced this warrants any column (or screen) inches unless the two people concerned are able to substantiate their vague claims, and justify why public money should go into such shaky projects in the first place.
Posted by herdwick over 6 years ago
In general these stories are Rural Legends and don't stand examination. I am involved in a community ISP that was set up when the exchange did not have a trigger level. Many many months later when BT decided to do nearly all the exchanges across the UK we got ADSL and used it to backhaul the wireless network. It would be fantasy to suggest the exchange was enabled because we were there. Does anyone really think BT can move that fast anyway ?
Posted by kijoma over 6 years ago
IT is not BT entirely on their own that do the gazumping, its the less than open and honest councils that collude with them and openly promote BT as the only solution they will support. Even if there is an incumbent far superior service active in the area. West Sussex county council are currently trying to get £120000 of grant money to give to BT to compete with Kijoma in areas Kijoma provides 16/24Mbps speeds and has done for 5 years.. So BT maybe opportunists but they are not working alone.
Posted by Somerset over 6 years ago
Does Kijoma give wholesale access to Sky, TalkTalk etc.?
Posted by chrysalis over 6 years ago
AndrueC we agree then, indeed FTTC the prime benefit is to no and slow spots, but they the very areas that appear to be BT are avoiding. As well as that they seem to be targeting affluency as well.
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