Pressure to make Openreach national telco for business
The politics surrounding the Ofcom decision continue to dominate broadband headlines and the latest body to wade in is the Engineering Employers Federation which in a survey of 128 businesses in December found that half of those on business parks had speeds under 10 Mbps.
Openreach has the finger of blame pointed at it for multiple reasons, but the largest appear to be that dedicated capacity (i.e. no congestion) services are too expensive compared to the GEA services and that the various xDSL services are too unreliable sometimes costing manufacturers and business £1000's in lost revenue. Following up very closely is that the roll-out of these inherently unreliable services has often avoided business parks and concentrated on residential areas, which is a mixture of commercial decision and the way the BDUK process has been implemented by local authorities.
"Ministers have utterly failed to foster a competitive broadband market or oversee the rollout of future-proof broadband for businesses."Chi Onwurah MP, Labour's Shadow Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy
There is an irony to the Shadow Ministers comments as the Digital Britain report and the groundwork for what the BDUK became actually started under their auspices in 2009. On the issue of not targeting business parks, the real debate needs to be about what sort of connectivity does a business need? A sandwich shop with a free Wi-Fi for its six seats will happy run on the residential grade services, but a manufacturer whose production line would grind to a halt with no Internet connection really should not be looking at services that are often just residential grade but with VAT added on top and a slightly more polite helpline.
Some of the BDUK projects actually had EU money that should have been ring fenced for business use, and that may explain why some areas are seeing native FTTP appearing for business parks. This is not everywhere and for those areas where targets are under 90% it is thought that the lower targets are because more focus has gone into business provision.
What is galling is that as with the recent new homes debate everyone calls Openreach and the BT Group to the table, but rarely do we see alternatives like WarwickNet, CityFibre, Virgin Media and others being asked to join in to show what they can actually do.