back to article What time do you call this, BT? Late, state-funded broadband rollout plods on

Readers may recall a time when the Tory-led UK government trumpeted plans to have the best broadband connections in Europe by, well, now. That dream was shattered, however, when progress on the Broadband UK (BDUK) project stalled, in part due to intervention from Brussels' competition officials, who had questioned BT's tight …

  1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    "Not viable"

    "the telco giant had declined to invest its own money, because those areas were not considered commercially viable."

    To be fair, it's not just the 'telco giant' that reckoned the areas weren't commercially viable. I didn't see a queue of competitors lining up to do the work without subsidy, even in many areas where BT HAD installed fibre without government dosh. At least this way, most of us, eventually, will get a fairly reasonable service. Just don't hold your breath for the 500Mbps rollout!

    1. MR J

      Re: "Not viable"

      Yea, new competition cant really step up and do this... at least... Not at the same price point as BT.

      Bear in mind that regardless of what service you use, there will be customers than a provider doesn't make money off of, and other whales that more than cover the lossy customers. BT could have easily been using the fat cat areas to fund those areas that were not "viable".

      I would rather see the council put down ductwork large enough for multiple providers and rent that space out but I guess that's not legally doable.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Not viable"

        "Bear in mind that regardless of what service you use, there will be customers than a provider doesn't make money off of, and other whales that more than cover the lossy customers. BT could have easily been using the fat cat areas to fund those areas that were not "viable"."

        I think that would be illegal for BT, or for any provider with a significant advantage in a competitive market.

        If the customers in one town aren't profitable, serving them means making a loss - subsidising them from profitable business elsewhere. That means any new provider wanting to launch in that town couldn't possibly compete because the subsidy is anti-competitive. It's the first step towards creating a monopoly and is illegal.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Not viable"

        That would be legal but where would you run the ducts too? The telephone exchange or some other point? Are you going to just run past homes, or up to the front door? Not every premises owner will want you on their land, but if you don't then the providers you sell to still need to dig every time they sell something. If they do dig the last bit, is that duct exclusively theirs or will you compel them to make it available to other providers?

        It's going to cost the council about 2,500 euros per house to get to the door. If only one in four houses want service, how will the council recoup the ten thousand euro cost per household? If it's less than that - one in ten say - that problem just became huge.

        Finding the money is also tricky - if the council covers a moderately sized town - say 10,000 premises - homes and businesses, that's 25 million euros. You have to do every premises else voters start muttering and complaining about their local taxes. Even then, voters who choose not to have the service will still have paid the tax. Poorer and older voters subsidising a service used mainly by younger, richer residents - how many pensioners do you know with 4K tellys and multiple devices?

        Most local politicians would decide that all of the above doesn't add up to much of a vote winner.

  2. ukgnome Silver badge

    Dear BT

    Please can you at least service the kit in our sub-exchange. Just a little maybe?

    I shouldn't be ungrateful as the 6.5 down and .3 up is better than some rural communities. It's just that it's been a year, and I thought you might of at least assessed it.

    1. stobe

      Re: Dear BT

      You should most definitely be grateful. 3 roads away from us they are fibre enabled, whereas residents on our fairly modern housing estate are still only getting 2Mbps maximum!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ha, 80%!

    Office I work in at Central Bristol = no access to fibre broadband, my house very close to centre of Bristol = no fibre, place I work in London a couple of blocks away from Old Street tube = no fibre.

    It wouldn't even be so bad if Openreach would say when it's going to happen (if at all)...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ha, 80%!

      Aha - I live 8 years out of the centre of Bristol. Oodles of bandwidth….

  4. dcluley

    Speed - what speed

    I do wish we could stop all the references to potential speeds - fibre or no fibre. I am on an ADSL2 line with a claimed maximum of 24Mb/s and, if I do it at a favourable time, a speed test gives me 17Mb/s. However reality is that most times during the day I struggle to get 1Mb/s; video streaming is often so blighted with pauses I give up in disgust.

    Yes - fibre connections promise greater upper limits; but when the number of subscribers increases will the real rate of transfer deteriorate be much lower an no longer value for money?

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Speed - what speed

      However reality is that most times during the day I struggle to get 1Mb/s; video streaming is often so blighted with pauses I give up in disgust.

      If you can currently connect at 17Mb/s at any time then you already have a pretty good connection. The fact you can't saturate that connection 24/7 is probably a separate issue to that being discussed here. It's possible that your exchange is congested but that's pretty unusual. BTor are fairly good at managing SVLAN/VP capacity. What does your exchange status say if you put it in here.

      I'd be inclined to blame your ISP or possibly you are using a wifi connection and interference from your neighbours is limiting throughput during peak hours.

  5. AndrueC Silver badge
    Happy

    Ironically the programme for Cornwall involving BT, the EU and Cornwall Council has been going great guns and is ahead of schedule. Seems like the weak link here is the government.

  6. Nifty

    Baffling

    ...to think that mains water, power grid and tarmac roads all got rolled out to 'unprofitable' areas of the UK without the big fuss

    Is it because we're now in a new super- privatised world compared to those bucolic days when the UK's more traditional infrastructure was rolled out?

    1. The First Dave

      Re: Baffling

      Really?

      So there are no rural areas of the UK without mains water? (Such as around half of the Scottish Highlands)

      And there are no rural areas without access to mains electricity? (Such as around half of the Hebridean Islands)

      Partly, of course, because of the difficulties due to being unable to stop along the motorway that leads to every house in those areas...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Baffling

        "So there are no rural areas of the UK without mains water? (Such as around half of the Scottish Highlands)

        And there are no rural areas without access to mains electricity? (Such as around half of the Hebridean Islands)"

        What planet does The First Dave live on? Our cottage nestles behind the Summer Isles and has had mains electricity since the early 1950s and has had mains water for about half a century. And as for Hebridean isles (inhabited ones, anyway), which islands with 100 inhabitants have no mains electricity?

        If broadband were rolled out as efficiently as mains electricity was in the middle of last century, there'd be very few rural areas without broadband.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Baffling

      "...to think that mains water, power grid and tarmac roads all got rolled out to 'unprofitable' areas of the UK without the big fuss"

      The cost was socialised. Urban dwellers subsidised rural ones.

      That's very hard to do in a competitive market because if you price high enough to achieve the socialisation all your profitable customers leave for a cheaper supplier who has lower costs because they only cover profitable areas. You end up with just the expensive rural customers who largely can't afford your service anyway because there's no urban dwellers left to keep the average cost down.

      The options are to price according to cost and charge more in rural areas, decline to serve expensive areas at all, or press on anyway and go bust. The government subsidy seems the best option unless you want to build a new nationalised not for profit telco that only serves rural areas.

      1. Bunbury

        Re: Baffling

        ""...to think that mains water, power grid and tarmac roads all got rolled out to 'unprofitable' areas of the UK without the big fuss"

        The cost was socialised. Urban dwellers subsidised rural ones"

        Not the case. Initially, many of these new technologies were charged at the rate the market could bear by private organisations. Electricity, for example, was charge at a higher rate to rural areas pre-WW2 as the line plant etc to deliver it to remote locations was expensive. And at the time, it wasn't viewed as an essential product as people had gas lighting. Turnpike roads were brought up to a good standard by virtue of the charges levied to use them.

        It's only in the later phase when a thing gets so commonplace as to be seen as an essential part of life for the great majority that some form of communal model occurs. When that model is run or moderated by a national government they often go with a 'standard charge for all citizens' approach. Which means that those people who are cheaper to serve often subsidise those more expensive to serve.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What I want to know..

    .. is if BT is forced to temper its enthusiasm for raising charges where the infrastructure was in essence paid by the users via their taxes. Otherwise Whitehall is busy rewarding the company for decades of non-investment.

    1. chris 17

      Re: What I want to know..

      @AC

      "is if BT is forced to temper its enthusiasm for raising charges where the infrastructure was in essence paid by the users via their taxes. "

      if we gave you all the infrastructure can you maintain it for free?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What I want to know..

      "where the infrastructure was in essence paid by the users via their taxes."

      The government only made a contribution. They paid the difference in cost between a normal commercially viable installation and the rural one. The rest of the money came from the providers - BT so far.

  8. Neil 44

    Exchange Only lines....

    Seems that BT forgot about the XO lines - that go straight to the exchange, not via a cabinet....

    We've got one and despite them spreading fibre around, we're still "not available" as there's no cabinet

  9. chris 17

    i'm closer to the exchange than our cabinet and get 17mbs on our fttc (the very limit of service availability) ads would be ~ 6mbs, whilst our last house i was getting ~22mbs on ADSL2 (same exchange different cab). having just got VM i'm now hoping FTTdp will be rolled out asap and save us from the crappy VM throttling. i'm in total agreement with the first poster, in that no one else wanted to put their money in and even if they did, they can't do the work any cheaper than BT can.

    it would be great if i could get a different provider over VM's cable network, just like i can over OpenReach, Transco & National Grid.

  10. airbrush

    State funded?

    At least some small amount of the public service part of BT has survived privatisation, the always privatised businesses in the states delivering universal broadband have swallowed up billions of tax payers money and delivered far less.

  11. All names Taken
    Paris Hilton

    A shame really

    A Tory lead guvmint sponsoring a (ahem - cough - splutter) a state monopolised creation?

    You couldn't make it up as an act of fiction

  12. deanb01

    Half-arsed broadband rollout

    Unable to get fibre broadband on the A6 in Stockport to a new satellite office my company is setting up and my home in Gatley, despite the exchange being capable of it, is not fibre broadband ready as BT have only put cabinets on half our estate.

    About time BT/OpenReach/Gov pulled their finger out IMHO.

  13. guyh
    FAIL

    Good news ...

    They're rolled out fast FTTC to *several* of my *previous* address now - hopefully they are catching me up!

  14. Chappers N

    Exchange Only

    And they still don't really deal with those customers who are Exchange Only, they just get left behind. Usually when you press you will get a vague "well maybe in the future we will think about possibly perhaps maybe if we remember and can be bothered think of a solution"... but in the meantime tough.

    And BDUK don't really seem to be pressing these cases too much either, just leaving it to BT to sit with its thumb up it's ass. They're happy to take the cash but still leave people who are only a stones throw away from an exchange with standard broadband - quite ridiculous.

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