EEF calls for digital infrastructure 'Network Rail' to deliver FTTP
The pressure for a massive change in how broadband operates in the UK continues, as the EEF which is a manufacturers organisation has published its submission that it has made to the Department for Business Innovation and Skills which is the process of undertaking a review of business broadband in the UK.
"15. Another made similar comments about businesses being squeezed, as unlike households they have a fundamental need for reliable internet connections and therefore more of an incentive to pay over the odds where no alternative exists:
Broadband is too far away from exchange to be of use, and Openreach shows no interest in upgrading the cabinets near our sites to FttC while they can fleece us for £6900 a year for leased lines (3 of them), as is the same across the majority of business parks. If Openreach could also stop faffing around in the countryside connecting villages to finish off upgrading the cities they abandoned half way through, perhaps we could get some of our staff working from home as well.
31. Manufacturers’ experience on the ground paints a picture of businesses historically being deprioritised for upgrades with the focus instead being households in high density areas. As one respondent to our survey notes:
a. Current Government initiatives are based around B2C and getting the 'number' of connections up, rather than quality connections for business. Putting the same line in for five business users on a business park would get the provider 100 users on a housing estate. Government will need to alter the incentives to change behaviours."Extracts from submitted evidence by EEF
The call is not about increasing broadband speeds but rather the reliability and the frustration from manufacturing firms who feel they have been ignored by existing projects. The availability of Openreach native FTTP at just 1% of UK premises is highlighted, but while its not massively higher there is another 0.7% of FTTP available via alternate providers at low prices. Though there are serious questions that need to be asked over whether GEA-FTTP and other low grade contended FTTP services are actually ideal for manufacturing. Leased lines are costly for several reasons, the custom nature of each install, the bandwidth purchased, the guaranteed capacity, routing to ensure low latency plus the extra monitoring by providers that make leased lines so reliable and due make faster fault repair times should a router, fibre or optical hardware die.
The idea of creating a national broadband equivalent of Network Rail might actually appeal to Openreach and at the same time scare Government as it might enshrine in stone ongoing subsidies to roll-out broadband infrastructure, but would likely be heavily opposed by others such as Virgin Media and CityFibre. CityFibre is very much focussed on FTTP for businesses but because it is only connected on demand their footprint does not normally feature in the FTTP coverage across the UK, the CityFibre model is possibly much more appealing to manufacturing as the dark fibre aspect means site to site connectivity can provide limitless capacity.
We know of some BDUK projects that have targeted business parks, either with VDSL2 or FTTP so hopefully the BIS review will be able to access relevant take-up data for those areas.
The sense that the last three decades of regulation that has focussed on increasing competition in the telecoms arena is coming back to bite with a vengeance now and that earlier successes in the retail side are actually hampering the ability to start from a clean sheet. Or put another way the success of Virgin Media and now continued expansion means there is not the same ability for a new FTTP entrant to quickly expand and have a guaranteed customer based.