Does BT spell big trouble for rural broadband projects?
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?