back to article BT boss: If Ofcom backs us, we promise to speed up UK broadband

BT chief Gavin Patterson has promised to back the government's desire to gift Blighty with universal minimum broadband speeds of 5 to 10Mbps, with the caveat that the company needs support from Ofcom. The one-time state monopoly laid out its plans for the next five years on Tuesday morning, by claiming that BT's pledges could …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Useful

    BT said today that it had a new "view my engineer" service, which would allow customers to track the whereabouts of Openreach bods

    "Thank you for your enquiry. Your Openreach engineer is here"

  2. Creamy-G00dness

    BT SCUM!

    First it was this:

    “Our £1.7bn superfast broadband programme is on track to reach at least 95 per cent of the UK by 2017, and it is great to see homes and businesses making the most of everything that superfast speeds have to offer.”

    Now it is this:

    "Patterson said that BT, left in its current incarnation, would deploy "ultrafast" broadband services of 300 to 500Mbps to 10 million homes and SMBs by the end of 2020"

    Gee thanks BT, what happened to the £1.7bn of our money that the government handed to you? Oh yeah you bought most of the football rights with it and created BT Sport in a further effort to remove cash from our pockets.................SCUM.

    1. Oli 1

      Re: BT SCUM!

      Oh you also forgot about their Drama offering...

      http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/markets/article-3241288/New-drama-channel-AMC-BT-registers-zero-viewers.html

      Utter, utter, scum.

  3. msknight Silver badge

    Splice them ... Splice them NOW!

    Promises, promises, promises. All empty.

    Enough.

    Do it all ready. You can see their scared as it means the end of their gravy train.

    Show your teeth. Do it for the people! Hurrah!

  4. Oor Nonny-Muss

    So... my line (I live 350m from the exchange by road) which is 1750m long (shortened by a whole 85m by the upgrade to "fibre") runs entirely in ductwork that has been there since the house was built (the trenchlines right back to the exchange are still entirely visible in the roadway from the entry to the development)

    Do I get any option to get FTTP? Of course not. Amazingly I got 42Mbit sync speed (with very low error count) at the point it was installed. That's down to 33Mbit sync speed now. Won't be long before I'm down to the speed I had on ADSL2...

    Surely the Openreach arm should be entirely hived off from BT (at FMV) into an independent trust for the common good for proper equal access.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      the Openreach arm should be entirely hived off from BT (at FMV) into an independent trust for the common good for proper equal access.

      Be careful what you ask for. When Railtrack was bankrupted by the Blair government, and the state owned Network Rail took over, little really changed. Whether state owned or not, a monopoly is a monopoly, and the only acceptable solution is a hard nosed regulator with the skills and resources to ensure that what is needed is delivered.

      I'd suggest that if you're getting anywhere north of 20 Mb/s, then managing this new entity "for the common good for proper equal access" would mean that your bills go up to pay for rural broadband for the real hillbillies, but you'd see no improvement at all because your service would be good enough until everybody's on at least 20 Mb/s.

      I agree hiving off Openreach is essential - the "don't break us up or the puppy gets it" has been a byline for incumbent monopolists since people first started asking why these organisations should enjoy statutory monopoly, but the sensible answer to controlling the monopoly power of Openreach is to allow it to be regulated by a team from OFWAT, who have many years experience of regulating monopolies with large investment programmes and clear targets (and as we all know, OFCOM are clearly unfit for purpose).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That's down to 33Mbit sync

      Welcome to the realities of crosstalk. The moment all consumers go to a frequency band (once upon a time ADSL, later VDSL, etc), the speed tanks.

      This is one of the reasons why I laugh hysterically every time I hear the name of the G.FAST copper workforce preservation moniker. You can now see exactly how it will work for you (or more likely not).

      The cost of running fiber through existing relatively fresh ducting is a fraction of the cost of copper maintenance after depreciating it over more than 5 years. Yeah, I know, that means half of OpenReach being without a job in a decade so not like it is going to happen without some judicious use of a cutting implement to split the various parts into separate companies.

    3. Andy Livingstone

      I'm still celebrating

      The arrival of ADSL2+ twelve days ago. And you are concerned about a reduction from 44 to 33 whatsits?

  5. Tony S

    Believe when I see it

    I've been waiting for this based on a stream of promises over the last 15 years. Still waiting.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    a miraculous change of attitude or just lying?

    BT spent the last 10 years trying to build and maintain the bare minimum infrastructure to keep the monopoly cash flowing. Openreach, the shell they used to hide from responsibility for under investing and under performing, was starved of staff and the ones that survived the culls overworked. It's flipped all the way from the GPO days of rampant skiving to people retiring early just to escape the work conditions.

    The only thing that blunted any of this relentless attempt to strip Openreach to a skeleton crew was regulator intervention. My brother, one of the survivors of the staff cull, is now more determined to retire very early rather than face increasing workloads with no belief they will hire more staff.

    Just how does BT plan on actually installing any of this promised infrastructure with decimated and pissed off staff and a history of deliberate under investment? It's not going to happen until they face binding obligations with extremely harsh penalties. It's not going to happen.

    If you want fast broadband in 10 years in all the places BT don't supply now, start building some loyalty bonus with a mobile provider, they'll be supplying your broadband cheaper and faster than BT. Probably on BT's own mobile network!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I gave up on BT long ago. I live 15 miles from the centre of London and 18 monhts ago the best BT could offer me was 2MB ADSL (that's peak! ) or possibly fibre in 3 years time. Made a deal with the devil and went to Virgin, now have 120Mb to my house with an upgrade to 150Mb soon. Virgin Media are still bloody awful on customer support but at least I can get a half decent and stable line to my house ( with an IP that never seems to change ) without listening to excuses about overselling the exchanges.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Exact same situation here; six miles from central london and less than 50m from an FTTC-enabled cabinet but I'm on an "exchange only" line which I was told would give me speeds of between 1 and 5Mb/s down and a dribble of gnats piss up so was also forced to go to virgin. Unless I wanted to pay openreach £30-50,000 to wire up the house to the cabinet which, as my previous ISP told me, didn't even have any free FTTC connections so even if I thought the price was worth it I'd be SOL.

      "Opted" for the virgin business service to hopefully get slightly less crap support [it's OK but far from stellar] and not have them bitch and moan about my upload or running my own servers.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        to be fair to virgin, i've been running many servers and a corporate firewall on their residential service for more than 7 years and they don't care. its a residential address so all is fine.

        will never return to BT - ever. and have finally got the parents to rip out the landline in favour of voip.

        happy days.

  8. Sulky

    Blackmail

    That's just blackmail, I'd like to ask him what would happen if Ofcom do split Openreach off. On a purely selfish note, I don't really care as we are getting Gigaclear 1Gb connection in December!

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Blackmail

      Yes it is blackmail and the justifications that BT have been through on their path to prevent Openreach being split are a near carbon-copy of the ones Telecom New Zealand used to prevent their lines company being split out.

      openreach may be "independent of" and "walled off from" BT wholesale and BT retail, but the dead hands of BT head office look over the walls and dictate activity in such a way to obstruct competition.

      Any time anyone tells you that you should go with BT because you'll get faster results when things break, that's a classic example of anticompetitive activity. BT deny it, but in general it's true.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Blackmail

        openreach may be "independent of" and "walled off from" BT wholesale and BT retail,

        That's what BT claim, but actually there isn't even a separate legal entity for Openreach. Any competent regulator would have made them move the assets, staff and operations of Openreach into a separate company, with its own statutory accounts.

        At the moment OFCOM have to rely on management accounts, which simply means the regulator only sees what BT choose to tell them. Admittedly of no net consequence whilst OFCOM remain a useless shower of ineffectual piss, but in some hypothetical world where OFCOM were competent and consumer focused, they'd struggle to find out what's really happening from management accounts.

        Note that the reason BT don't want to split Openreach out is not merely that it is a cash cow with little competition, but Openreach has a huge fixed asset base. By securing BT group's £10bn of debt on monopolistic assets with a supposedly regulated return, the costs of debt are far lower than if BT group told investors that the debt was being deployed on a crummy TV aggregator, or the crap BT Global Services operation.

  9. This post has been deleted by its author

  10. adam payne Silver badge

    Another round of promises from BT that will come to nothing.

    "Patterson said that BT, left in its current incarnation, would deploy "ultrafast" broadband services of 300 to 500Mbps to 10 million homes and SMBs by the end of 2020"

    How many homes are there in the UK?

    1. Andy Livingstone

      Hown many homes?

      26,473,000 in 2011 according to Wikipedia. How much further forward does that take us?

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      That is not just homes, this is homes and SMBs

      So this includes garages, small shops, etc.

      Your best approximation for this number is not the "number of residential dwellings", but the "number of electricity meters on non-industrial tariffs" which I believe was ~ 46M 5-6 years ago. It is probably still somewhere in the same ballpark.

      So for "homes _AND_ SMB" this makes up for under 25%.

  11. K Silver badge

    meh - Minimum broadband speeds of 5 to 10Mbps,

    Make it 100Mb to 500Mb and you've got a deal!

  12. CAPS LOCK Silver badge

    Physical connections are a natural monopoly.

    4G and possible Wimax are the future, so long as competition is preserved. No more mergers Ofcom!

    1. alpine

      Re: Physical connections are a natural monopoly.

      BT need to be watched where Wimax is concerned. At present, via Openreach they own all those conveniently placed telegraph poles...

      And where I am, if I go in the garden I can get some 3g, but only there. I even have to go in the garden to make a reliable voice call. Texts usually get through inside the house, well, parts of it.

  13. BigAndos

    I like how even the "universal minimum" is a range, typical BT weasel words! Why not just say 5mpbs minimum? Obviously higher would better!

    Mixed feelings on this topic. BT is an inefficient behemoth, but I'm not convinced breaking it up would help much and might just add a load more complexity and extra costs to be borne by the consumer (see the privatisation of the rail network for an example).

    However, maybe the remainder of BT would be a bit more aggressive about chasing up Openreach for repairs if split into truly separate companies. Interested to see how the arguments on both sides shape up.

  14. Paul 25

    Take the NATS model perhaps?

    While NATS is not a perfect example, it's ownership model is interesting as an alternatuive to the NEtwork Rail approach of total government ownership.

    While the government owns the golden share (so retains control and preventing a selloff), about 45% of NATS is (last I heard) owned by a group of the major airlines. Effectively its customers are also its owners.

    Make OpenReach a company owned (at least to a large degree) by all the major ISPs, break the old link the BT once and for all, make its owners its customers, and OFCOM acting as arms reach regulator.

    That way companies like Virgin and Sky along with the government can actually invest in the infrastructure directly in a way that they can't really at the moment.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Take the NATS model perhaps?

      That would be a cartel - and definitely illegal. Those new incumbents would then act to prevent new players entering the market. What would happen to Virgin's own 50% UK coverage network in that model?

      It wouldn't fundamentally change the underlying problem - that rural broadband coverage costs far more to deliver than customers are willing to pay for.

  15. MGJ

    Any chance they could finish the Infinity roll out first?

    Central Edinburgh and I cannot get FTTC; my cabinet has been marked as due to get Infinity for over three years now but it never happens. I can move supplier (although getting Virgin to give you just internet access looks a challenge) but I'd lose an email address I've had for 16 years, and the hassle of that is probably not worth a faster download speed.

    At least it isn't the old Syntegra business unit. They really were appalling - we had their call centre software at work.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Former CEO of Openreach once aggressively said that people should love the job they're in, if not they should consider their position. She loved her job. Then a few months later she quit for Severn Trent.

    What does that tell you?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Monopoly Obligations

    Let BT keep their monopoly, but only if we give the regulator sufficient teeth that he can force BT to bring the slowest 5% up to (at least) the speed of currently fastest 5%, before they're allowed to move on the next slowest 5%, etc.

    It's the only way we'll ever get the not-spots filled in.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Monopoly Obligations

      If you do that though, you'll increase the cost of broadband to urban dwellers. The government can't mandate a private company to provide service at a loss, and if they did sell at a loss it would probably be illegal under the competition act as one man's rural subsidy is another mans's predatory pricing model to keep competitors out.

      That slowest 5% will include premises that cost hundreds of thousands of pounds each, maybe more, to reach. A crofter's cottage in the highlands that requires 20 miles of fibre through rock.

      If you introduced a universal service obligation, reaching that 5% of premises will double the costs of broadband for everyone else. A rule of thumb in telecoms is that the last 10% of coverage - of any kind - costs the same as the preceding 90%.

      There are three choices. Charge rural dwellers the actual cost of delivery - too expensive. Socialise the cost - broadband becomes more expensive for everyone. Government subsidy for expensive areas - works OK but supplier will still focus on easier rural areas to hit targets for premises reached or passed. That £300k for one cottage in the highlands might pay for twenty homes in a Hampshire village.

      My final thought - Virgin's network reaches half of the UK, so I don't think monopoly is the right word. Being the only supplier to an area because other suppliers choose not to invest isn't the same thing.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Monopoly Obligations

        "The government can't mandate a private company to provide service at a loss, and if they did sell at a loss it would probably be illegal under the competition act "

        Openreach operates as a loss mainly because BT's accounting system is designed to make it look that way.

        Look to the New Zealand model. The incumbent created a carbon copy of BT/Openreach to stave off regulators and once the regulators saw how abused that model had been in the UK, they made separation a condition of any further broadband funding.

        The result is that the incumbent is now in bad shape, whilst the lines company is doing a roaring trade selling dark fiber, copper and duct access to all and sundry (often actively seeking out customers).

        The success of Chorus (NZ) shows the lie of BT's claims.

  18. deanb01

    Doing the bare minimum

    According to this press release https://www.btplc.com/News/Articles/Showarticle.cfm?ArticleID=D6BA16C8-6876-4735-B571-C1DAD61512A0 I should have FTTC Superfast Broadband. Oh wait, they only appear to have converted less half of Gatley's cabinets...

    We're hardly out in the sticks, less than 10 miles from the centre of Manchester and 3 from Stockport.

    Similar story when fitting out remote offices for work. More than half are only served by ADSL. Broadband in this country is a mess.

  19. aheywood

    What measurement?

    In terms that mere humans can understand how far BT has actually got with the Superfast rollout? All I see is money piled into BT for something that does not appear to have a consistent measurement of success. They tell us they are doing a great job, but are they?

  20. John Crisp

    Make Openreach contactable

    Making OpenReach available to the public might help.

    Thry are shielded away where you can't put a round of fucks into the bastards.

    You CAN get stuff done with BT if you are an obnoxious determined persustent bastard like me, but most understandably just can't be bothered.

    I now get top line support with a personal mobile number and phenomenal customer support from BT. None of that online help shite. But virtually had to threaten to decapitate someone to get it.

    OpenReach engineers (if they turn up - at least with me they do now) are generally pretty good. But the management are just beancounters trying to up their percentage rates.

    Fix the easiest thing closest to the exchange.

    They need to be on the end of the phone with bastards like me haranguing them for anything to change :-)

  21. Disgruntled of TW
    FAIL

    Aiming for 5 - 10 Mbps is ...

    ... utterly pointless, guaranteeing the UK will end up as a 3rd world connected internet country within a decade. It's like aiming for failure, and achieving it.

    Only FTTP has a future. I don't see Openreach ever aiming for that unless it is split out of BT.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    EO lines

    Nuff said..

    Openreach have had it too easy picking the low hanging fruit and leaving those of us on EO or aluminium lines swinging in the breeze.

    Especially galling as they made the technical decision to go down these routes for their benefit, not ours.

  23. RedeyeUK

    Failure to Launch

    Interesting reading other peoples comments on this. I wonder if ANYONE from OpenReach/Ofcom reads them. I wonder if OpenReach ever admit they have done something wrong or gets held to account for their failures. I live in an area which has been upgraded to Infinity, however despite continual emails to Connected Counties(for Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire), my MP, My Local Council, BT OpenReach, Buck Business forum they somehow FORGOT..(yes FORGOT was the word) used to assess the suitability of 2 Cabinets in the area and have continually used the economic viability argument to justify themselves and now quote that no further allocation will be available for at least 3 years. Surely if they screwed up they should be held to account. Its shocking reading here so many comments from others about they way they have handled rollout-this is bad project management and no accountability. Come on Openreach/Ofcom look into these failures and comment.

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