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BT questions rivals' commitment to rural broadband

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By Stewart Mitchell

Posted on 6 Apr 2011 at 11:53

BT has hit back at rival ISPs after they sent a letter to broadband minister Ed Vaizey complaining about prices to access the carrier's poles and ducts.

In a letter signed by TalkTalk, Virgin Media and other industry heavyweights, the ISPs claimed BT's prices and terms and conditions for physical infrastructure access (PIA) could derail the Government's £830 million plan to take fast broadband to rural areas.

The PIA process is intended to give rival carriers access to poles and ducts to carry fibre services to the networks' extremities.

The letter claimed BT's prices were five times as high as the actual costs. "It would be more cost effective to build an entirely separate duct and pole network," the letter said.

We would question whether these companies are genuinely interested in serving rural Britain given their track record

In a separate widely-reported letter to BT - its contents confirmed as genuine to PC Pro by one of the signatories - the ISPs expanded on the gravity of the situation.

"We are unanimous in the belief that PIA will be a commercial and policy failure if [BT's] Openreach does not revise its prices," the letter said. "Moreover, we are united in the view that the product is unfit to proceed into commercial use."

BT disagrees

BT, however, has questioned whether the ISPs have an ulterior motive for the letter, claiming the references to rural broadband were misleading.

A source at BT told PC Pro that the company had equipped every exchange in the UK for local loop unbundling, but that in rural areas no rival operators had expressed any interest in rolling out services.

“BT is the only company who has installed broadband equipment in exchanges serving the last 10% of the UK and so we would question whether these companies are genuinely interested in serving rural Britain given their track record,” the company said in a statement.

The source went on to suggest that rival ISPs were using the rural broadband trump card as a bargaining tool to lower the PIA prices, which they could then use to offer services in more economically viable areas.

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User comments

The government should call their bluff and order BT to reduce prices in those areas where people are still without a decent (or any) broadband service.

I agree with BT on this. These companies have shown no interest whatsoever in the relatively cheap option of utilising LLU in rural areas so why would anyone believe that they are going to invest vast sums of money to bring fibre to those living miles from their local exchange.

By qpw3141 on 6 Apr 2011

No commitment to high speed broadband. No Money.

The Government shouldn't part with £830 Million to any broadband company with out the commitment to give value for money, and commitment to provide the whole Country with high speed broadband, not just the big City's.

By airborne_warrior on 6 Apr 2011

Pointless

I keep hearing UK needs to upgrade it's network understructure but do we all really need super fast internet connection?

Excluding businesses and other organisations that rely on high speed connection no one.

I personally think it the money will be better spent giving access to other parts of UK then giving people with a moderately fast internet connection even more.

Everyone will be connected, cost will be less and the coalition government might not make one extra person loose their job.

By firstsin on 6 Apr 2011

Why not RECYCLE some metal?

BT had the whole of UK monopolized with their network.
I can not see why they never simply converted all their wire to Fibre Optic.
The telegraph poles are still alongside most rural areas.
Opti cables are:
1. Not worth scrap value as copper / steel wires.(Anti-theft colour coded).
2. Less likely to be affected by lightning strike.
3. Almost impervious to RF interference.
4. Do not need 50 volt sensing (on/off hook) power.
5. Are much safer to work on 'HOT' and to maintain.

BT are just like the BBC; stuck in a rut and cannot see the future.
Has their Pilot Light has gone out?

By lenmontieth on 7 Apr 2011

Where is Virgin Media's commitment to sharing

BT was privatised in 1984 so that means the last 27 years of maintainance and rebuilding was at their expense, and I'll grant that they were initially given a ready made infrastructure, but why are Virgin not being forced to open up their infrastructure? They are happy enough to bitch about BT but that's only coz they don't want to commit any monies of their own and feel everyone else should pay. (see also attitude to BSkyB) Possible if VM were forced to open up, this would take pressure off BT and then allow for the construction of the high speed rural access, or alternatively VM & BT could be forced to pay for it allowing joint access, instead of BT being forced to pay and Virgin using it at a fraction of the cost!

By scooter91170 on 7 Apr 2011

Talk about old fashioned

Why do we still call the poles 'telegraph poles'?

By pdymock on 7 Apr 2011

Argh

I would hope that the afore mentioned poles would do their job even without being renamed by a fahsionable team of advisors including Simon Cowell, Gok Wan and Trinny and Susanah.

This could run the risk of the introduction of "Designer" poles, Pole "Upgrades" Pole "Sales" or Pole "Bling!"

By Gindylow on 7 Apr 2011

"It would be more cost effective to build an entirely separate duct and pole network"
Says Virgin Media which already has it's own duct network.

By peterm2k on 7 Apr 2011

Think what'll happen when the Post Office is Privatised!!!

BT has always been a waste of space. They were incredibly slothful in introducing Broadband in the first place, and have lagged behind in everything except marketing and profiteering ever since.

The simple truth is that BT (or Virgin, or any of the others) would have to INVEST in order to provide proper rural broadband. That would involve RISK, and today's self-styled "entrepreneurs" don't actually understand that concept.

Their ideas are based on the idea that you 'invest' in marketing, but that everything else increases overheads and 'head-count' and is wrong.

The same chaos will occur when the PO is privatised. You'll be falling over creeps wanting to deliver in London and the rest of us will be cycling 5 miles to pick up our mail. This (like BT privatisation) will be an 'improved service'.....

By wittgenfrog on 7 Apr 2011

@pdymock

We still call them telegraph poles because outside the urban areas that's all we get.

I have bitched before about the BT Infinity con.

Our local exchange was one of the first to be Infinity enabled. Further upgrade work seems now to have ceased but those of us outside the urban area are still putting up with miserably slow broadband speeds far below the quoted "up to" lies, whereas only a mile along the road the urban area Infinity rules. It shouldn't be BT it should be B***S***.

By jontym123 on 8 Apr 2011

@scooter91170

That's 27 years of failure then! Do you not think VM have also had the expense of maintenance and rebuilding as well, plus the cost of building their network, resulting in a massive debt around their necks. Something the privatised BT has not had to deal with, since the cost of building their network was funded by the taxpayer.

Maybe they have a valid case to, as you say "bitch anout BT" as BT have a long history of charging/quoting exorbitant costs.

By chapelgarth on 8 Apr 2011

The cost of building BT's network was funded by tax payers, but when it was privatised it was sold, therefor in theory the tax payers got their money back.

Since 1984 any additions to or improvements to the network have been funded by private means, much the same as Virgin, yet Virgin don't have to open up their fibre network to the competition.

Looking at a business model, why would BT really bother with investing the billions in rural broadband when their competitors are just cherry picking the profitable urban areas, and if deep penetration rural broadband became a reality those competitors would just whinge to the government that they should get access to the newly constructed networks at a fraction of the development costs.

By Phoomeister on 12 Apr 2011

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