back to article Dark fibre arts: Ofcom is determined to open up BT's network

BT has long been accused of jealously guarding its infrastructure. But forcing it to open up its network to competitors and break its market dominance has been an aim of Ofcom for some time. One key measure was the proposal to allow access to Openreach's dark fibre optic network, the unused parts of its infrastructure …

  1. TRT Silver badge

    Seems bizarre to me...

    that removing public ownership of previously state sector industries STILL leads to governmental intervention. You either wash your hands of state ownership, or you don't. Stop messing around in the middle ground and thinking that it's in any way acceptable to do that.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Seems bizarre to me...then I'll try and explain

      You either wash your hands of state ownership, or you don't

      Not at all. Construction, ownership, operation, and governance of an infrastructure based service are four very different capabilities. Government are shite at the first three, and it makes great sense to let somebody else do that and make a profit. Whilst government are also poor at governance, you wouldn't want the private sector contractors for near-monopoly assets to be setting their own standards and prices, so the best compromise is to have a state appointed regulator.

      This works well for other asset and infrastructure based operations (water, leccy, gas networks), but its less good in areas like energy retailing where there's lots of regulation but which seems to make things worse for everybody, rather than more limited regulation that works. Ofcom have a completely different approach of very limited regulation that doesn't work. The failing here is not the model of public sector regulation of private sector companies, but the regulator being a useless, ineffectual crapbag organisation.

      The other thing that is at stake here is the BT Group pension fund liabilities. When the GPO Telecoms business was privatised, government kept and wasted the money from flotation, and expected BT plc to find a way to fund the rash and ongoing pension promises to employees. As a public sector entity they had an un or under-funded pension scheme, but that "didn't matter" because like all public sector pensions, the cost would be stiffed to future tax payers. Now there is a £10bn+ gap between the promises made and the current assets of the pension fund, and exposing BT to more competition creates a real problem. That's why BT hasn't been broken up, why they get treated with kid gloves, and why they aren't under the cosh for universal gigabit broadband. Even if Ofcom womaned-up under Sharon White (which I doubt), they've got no room to manoeuvre unless current and future BT pensioners are to be thrown to the wolves.

      The ultimate root of that is this has nothing as such to do with telecoms, rather it is that the short term makeweights of Parliament happily make promises without setting aside the funds to cover them (and people are being really inconsiderate, and living a lot longer). At the moment, UK unfunded pension liabilities of the public sector are about £1.5 trillion. So BT plc owing its pensioners just over £10bn (not part of that 1.5 teraquid) doesn't seem quite as bad as national and local government owing its pensioners an amount equal to about 80% of GDP. In both cases, government promised, either through bills or taxes we pay, or the pensioners don't get what they've been promised.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Facepalm

        Re: Seems bizarre to me...then I'll try and explain

        "The ultimate root of that is this has nothing as such"

        Did I really write that shite? Oh well.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Seems bizarre to me...then I'll try and explain

        As a public sector entity they had an un or under-funded pension scheme, but that "didn't matter" because like all public sector pensions, the cost would be stiffed to future tax payers.

        You are right to lay the blame for the pension black hole at govts. door but not at that particular door. At one stage the fund was deemed to be in surplus and HMRC - or probably IR back then - ordered BT to take a contribution holiday. Over funding is considered to be a form of tax evasion.

        As all state pensions, including Civil Service pensions, are run as a Ponzi scheme the tax authorities don't really grok the extreme long term nature of pensions funds. The valuation of a pension fund is based on what it would cost to turn the liabilities into annuities and this is based on interest rates. Annuities are also based on life expectancies and increases in those need to be allowed for when looking to the long term.

        What's not taken into consideration is that interest rates can go down as well as up. So when interest rates went down and stayed down as a result of a financial bubble, for which Treasury policy and their sometime political head Brown must accept some responsibility, the valuation on which the taxman's decision was based was shown to be wildly optimistic. Increased life expectancy has further hit annuity rates. In consequence BT is committed to making large contributions trying to catch up. It's not simply a matter of paying what it wasn't allowed to pay before because the fund has lost any stock market and income gains from the contributions that weren't made back then and that also has to be covered.

        Another factor was the withdrawal of pension funds tax relief on dividends*, another of Brown's bright ideas. The dividends contribute to growth of the funds and this contribution was cut by removal of the tax relief. It clearly amounted to taxing the future and that future is here. It did a lot of damage to pension funds in general, not just BT's, and is one reason why there are few defined benefits schemes left.

        As things stand the best we can hope for is that as interest rates rise the annuities will offer better prospects and the hole will be at least partly dealt with due to that.

        * I thought then, and still think, that the pension funds were culpably supine back then. They had offered projections of future value based on the tax regime as it then was. When the regime altered they should have presented members with valuations which showed the difference between what was now projected and what would have been projected under the old legislation if only to cover their own backs and explain why things were looking less rosy. The fact that it might have put political pressure on Brown by exposing the long term consequences of his actions would, of course, have been a fortunate by-product. I notice reports suggesting that the recent budget has sneaked in another technical looking change that will affect some saving schemes in the long run. The Treasury got away with in 20 years ago, why would they not expect to succeed again?

      3. RealBigAl

        Re: Seems bizarre to me...then I'll try and explain

        If government were rubbish at construction and ownership of things we'd never have had a functioning national power grid in the UK.

        If broadband access was treated as a utility in the same way as say water or power we'd see massive improvements.

      4. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Seems bizarre to me...then I'll try and explain

        "The other thing that is at stake here is the BT Group pension fund liabilities. "

        This bogeyman was raised to try and prevent Telecom NZ being broken up too.

        The vast majority of the pensions liability falls in the lineside company (openreach) and as event have proven that is the part which has the best prognosis for being in rude health as a result of any split.

        Why? Things like this: "Psst, hey Virgin, wanna run your fibres in our ducts? Pay us and you can! Wanna run cabling to all those streets where you don't provide Cable TV in our ducts? No problem! We've got the ducts and you've got the demand. Let's deal!"

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Seems bizarre to me...

      When you have an incombent monopoly in the supply side which ALSO runs retail operations, you have a situation that's ripe for abuse, even when equal access for allcomers is mandated.

      All that's happened so far is that Openreach are at arm's length. The undue influence of BT and their amazingly one-sided contracts continues.

      The retail/wholesale and outdoor plant sides need to be entirely separated with separate shares, boards and offices. That's the scenario BT is terrified of - because as New Zealand proved, despite all the rhetoric and FUD, it's Openreach which is the commercial and financial core of the business and the part that lenders like to see(*). The retail/wholesale parts are extremely likely to whither if removed from their cash cow.

      (*) Within months of Telecom New Zealand being broken up, lenders upgraded the credit rating of the lines company and DOWNgraded the credit rating of the remaining telco. Obtaining financing for expansion and fibre rollouts has proven to be simple and without the dead hand of Head Office stifling competition, equal access was easy to do. Everyone was happy except the former Telecom NZ telco, which whined that the access charges were too high(*) and it couldn't possibly pay them. They didn't get much sympathy

      (*) line charges are regulated by the NZ ministry of commerce, originally based on figures supplied by Telecom NZ stating its operating costs. These turned out to be vastly overblown despite charges being less than half the previous monopoly company rate so everyone else who'd been paying much higher fees was surprised when Spark (Former TNZ) started whining that the rates were too high.

  2. Richard Boyce

    The consumer would like some of Ofcom's attention too

    As well as more lit fibre, we need less copper in use, particularly in the local loop. Consumers are still being forced to pay for old-style land lines while VoIP is suppressed.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: The consumer would like some of Ofcom's attention too

      "Consumers are still being forced to pay for old-style land lines"

      No problem. Just get your land line discontinued. I'm sure your ISP will find some other way of connecting you.

      1. Richard Boyce

        Re: The consumer would like some of Ofcom's attention too

        No problem. Just get your land line discontinued. I'm sure your ISP will find some other way of connecting you

        In the UK most consumers who need a wired service are forced to use either a service that uses Openreach or Virgin Cable. With the former, you're required to pay for an ordinary phone line too. Virgin therefore makes you pay for a phone line whether you have one or not. Indeed, you're often quoted more for service without a phone line.

        These days, we should be plugging our telephone handsets into our routers. We're well passed the point where we need to replace the USO for phone service with a USO for broadband that includes VoIP.

        None of the big telcos will put the old cash cow at risk by offering a VoIP service that competes with it. You have to go to a company that specialises in VoIP service. That is why we need a regulator to act.

        1. Commswonk Silver badge

          Re: The consumer would like some of Ofcom's attention too

          A nice collection of non sequiturs IMHO.

          I would expect most consumers to be completely indifferent to the availability or otherwise of VOIP; it might well make sense if someone was building a complete network from scratch now, but they aren't because we already have an admittedly elderly network that seems to do tolerably well for a significant number of consumers.

          Consumers are, however, cost concious so your idea that a regulator should come along and sweep the current system aside is little short of insane, because the cost of that would fall on er, the end user.

          As I asked earlier, what data do you have to support your assertion that consumers (as a body, not just a vociferous few) want the existing system replaced by FTTP? (And VOIP since you have raised that as well?)

          1. Richard Boyce

            Re: The consumer would like some of Ofcom's attention too

            Most people are not technology-sensitive. What they care about is cost, and what they can do with their Internet connection. Most are therefore still oblivious to the fact that their fast Internet is perfectly capable of handling their telephone traffic at near-zero incremental cost, even for many international calls, just as their visits to web sites are.

            So they continue to think that they need something separate, and continue to be charged in the old way. I am not asking for FTTP to be universally installed. I am asking for more FTTC (which suffices for telephony). I do not want Ofcom to ask, as you do, what evidence there is that people are wising up to the new possibilities. When it comes to improving our national telecoms, they should be proactive, acting for the general good.

            Ripping up the old copper wires to the exchanges would be a one-time cost that will have to be done eventually anyway. The sooner it's taken out, the sooner the ongoing maintenance costs end. This should be part of the process of rolling out FTTC to a neighbourhood.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: The consumer would like some of Ofcom's attention too

              Richard, your post needs to be directed at certain die-hard posters here, who are obsessed the Age UK aid-call device won't work if BT ditches copper landlines or its digital replacement won't work in the event of a power cut.

              While they're right to skeptical (in the same way I am about energy smart meters, but mainly due the bunch of charlatans that run the big 6), it's wrong to completely ignore the type of technology a two-way full fibre FTTP connection could achieve additionally in preventative medicine, in conjunction with the NHS, long before you need to use Age UK's aid call if a person does have a stroke at home.

              It's so antiquanted/time wasting for both an elderly Patient (and for the Doctor in terms of missed appointments) to always have to get Taxis to their local Surgery for checkups.follow-up appointments when we have the potential technology full fibre FTTP to revolutionise preventative care. You still have a face to face interview with your Doctor, it actually gives those patients even more independence.

              One of the problems with aid-call (red button around your neck to summon someone in an emergency) is if you do have a stroke, that button still needs to be manually pressed, the person having the stroke still needs to be able to do that simple task.

              Often the person becomes disorientated or struggles to remember/operate even a conventional phone/aid call device. They can see the red button, but their brain doesn't link it to summoning help anymore.

              Using movement detection, video is far better. Regular devices like a kettle being switched on, to alert potential problems, has to be the way forward, so people can keep their independence.

              I regret not having set-up remote desktop (with their consent) for a (very independent) member of the family who used Windows Media Player PC connected TV, because when they had a stroke, they couldn't summon help, even though they had aid call around their neck and remained in the chair in front of the TV for 2 days over the weekend and died 2 days later once they reached hospital.

              A so-called reliable antiquated Copper POTS Phone didn't help in these circumstances, it just rang out. We need to move on and ditch copper going forward.

              1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                Re: The consumer would like some of Ofcom's attention too

                So here's a thing-

                Download 77.01 Mb/s Upload 17.99 Mb/s

                That's on BT's unreliable and antiquated copper network, aka a BT Infinity home connection. That's.. waaaaay more than enough to run a VoIP connections. I could probably run VoIP connections for most of my town over that. It's also enough to stream concurrently to pretty much every screen I've got, download a bunch of files in the background and order a pizza, if I wanted.

                Problem with copper is speeds are directly related to distance and line quality. HFC can help with that, ie fibre to the cab, copper to the premises. That shortens the pair length, and can reduce interfence from other services that might be running across copper. Those may be alarm services, or old baseband links. So for most users, there isn't really any need for FTTP in the consumer market. There may be a want, but that want has to fund the investment needed from both Openreach as infrastructure 'owner', and BT's retail divisions who'd have to buy services.

                Then there are still some tricky situations with safety of life issues, ie good'ol POTS lines and phones should still let you call emergency services if there's a power cut. VoIP phones would need power, and can be a lot less reliable.

              2. Commswonk Silver badge

                Re: The consumer would like some of Ofcom's attention too

                @ AC: A so-called reliable antiquated Copper POTS Phone didn't help in these circumstances, it just rang out. We need to move on and ditch copper going forward.

                Apples and oranges. I fully recognise that a POTS would be of no help in supporting a series of medical monitoring devices, but I would have thought you would have realised that they don't need FTTP either. FTTC would be more than enough, and even ADSL would be able to cope if you dropped the "video" idea. (BTW; video in which room? All of them?)

                And I hope you weren't thinking of IOT devices for the monitoring either; without properly developed security they would need to be wired.

                And who would fund this Home Intensive Care Unit? It's a very nice idea, certainly, but it is also unaffordable on any sort of scale.

                1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                  Re: The consumer would like some of Ofcom's attention too

                  First it would need a Home Intensive Care Unit Protocol. Some sensitivity might be needed around terms like 'heart beat' and 'dying gasp' though.

                  But a HICU is pretty doable over copper. DSL gives plenty of capacity for most kinds of monitoring or alerting, and with a UPS and mobile data backup, reasonably reliable. Main snag would be with SLA's and MTTRs though, which for cheap, commodity broadband ain't great. And that's a function of market driven pricing, so downwards. And possibly some sharp sales practices, ie DSL with DSL backup. If you want true route seperation for either copper or fibre to a residential area, well, that's going to get really expensive. And long lead times while roads are dug up to another exchange. Last time I got a quote (under duress) to a client's office, the excess charges were in the order of £190k.

                  It might be possible to get creative, if you have Openreach's network maps. Then you might be able to splice sections together and get some form of redundant/resilient path.. But would also likely involve civils because most of BT's network is getting customers back to an exchange.. Which is also the issue with people wanting FTTP. Enough(ish) duct was built to run copper from exchange to homes. People wanting 2nd lines for broadband increased demand, and unless copper can get pulled, there's not a lot of space to lease out.

                  The Ofcom proposals won't be a magic bullet for home users, and probably limited benefit to a lot of businesses due to the cost to competitors of building out fibre PoPs & NIDs to drive fibre.

                  1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                    Re: The consumer would like some of Ofcom's attention too

                    "Enough(ish) duct was built to run copper from exchange to homes."

                    There is NO reason whatsoever why the same cabinets which currently do FTTC can't also be voice concentrators and all that copper replaced with a couple of fibres back to the exchange and then broken out into BT/LLU providers there in exactly the same way that is done with FTTC

                    It's an option on the equipment BT's using - they choose not to do so. The actual cost of doing it the current way is effectively higher than replacing cabinet to exchange trunks, as the copper extracted is saleable and the longer the copper line, the more faults there are (most trunks are decades old and in some state of rot). The primary reason for continuing with the status quo is that it allows BT to maintain their monopolies.

            2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: The consumer would like some of Ofcom's attention too

              What they care about is cost, and what they can do with their Internet connection.

              Let me guess - you are fairly young. There are a *lot* of older people who don't care about such things - they just want to be able to pick up the phone and call someone. They see "the internet" if they have it as a necessary evil to be able to do email and (maybe) look at some websites. They didn't grow up with computers (let alone intenet) and just don't see things that way.

              So why force them into something that is of no value to them and that they won't know how to use?

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: The consumer would like some of Ofcom's attention too

          "These days, we should be plugging our telephone handsets into our routers."

          And what does your router plug into? If you think you shouldn't pay for that connection back to the ISP get it discontinued and see how well your internet service works.

          "We're well passed the point where we need to replace the USO for phone service with a USO for broadband that includes VoIP."

          The USO, AIUI, requires the phone service to continue to operate in the event of power failure. POTS does this by being powered down the line by UPSs at the switch. Your router isn't going to be powered over fibre. Even if this is dropped you still need a connection back to your ISP. That needs to be paid for. If you're not to be billed direct your ISP will be billed instead and pass the cost on to you. Neither your telco nor your ISP are charities dedicated to supplying you with a free connection.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: The consumer would like some of Ofcom's attention too

            "And what does your router plug into?"

            In most cases, GPON.

        3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: The consumer would like some of Ofcom's attention too

          These days, we should be plugging our telephone handsets into our routers

          Which of course, work really reliably if the power goes off..

          There is a very good argument for keeping the POTS - it's (largely) independent of local power. Sure, you can use a UPS but how many people know what that is, let alone have one?

          And yes, a lot of people have mobiles - but a lot of people don't. Or can't remember how to use or charge them..

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: The consumer would like some of Ofcom's attention too

            "Which of course, work really reliably if the power goes off.."

            Mine works very reliably for about 12 hours with a small gel battery slung under it. Said battery has an expected life of decades if treated properly (modern charging kit can treat AGM batteries _very_ carefully)

            Do your cordless phones work when the power goes off? A lot of consumers don't HAVE wired phones anymore.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: The consumer would like some of Ofcom's attention too

          "No, I don't pay line rental for either."

          And you really think your ISP isn't being billed for it and including it in your ISP bill?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The consumer would like some of Ofcom's attention too

            "And you really think your ISP isn't being billed for it and including it in your ISP bill?"

            A bit patronising.

            Most people posting here knows the BTwholesale cost of a land line to the penny (£86.72 per annum), and we also know it's nowhere near the monthly ~£20 BT Retail cost of a landline, hence why Ofcom is forcing the unjust margin on this product down 37% to a more reasonable, yet still profitable figure.

            Weasels Ofcom know it's a very small subset of those taking BT combined Landline/Broadband packages, so it's more being seen to be doing something and the delay (in years) in terms of implementing this is wholly unacceptable, to the point of turning a blind eye by the regulator.

            Ofcom are the ones in the firing line here, the only reason it's happening.

            (This is it only applies to 1 million BT landline-only customers, and it wasn't applied immediately, stead in April 2018. Refunds should have being backdated 5 years, given how long BT have been doing this without any action from Ofcom)

          2. This post has been deleted by its author

            1. Tethys

              Re: The consumer would like some of Ofcom's attention too

              Interesting. As a retired, out of date and now member of Joe Public, I didn't know that, and it sounds a great way to do things.

              Just out of interest, and without going into Jason Bourne movie plots, how does the Swiss system guard against inappropriate/illegal access by 'whoever' ? Perhaps there is no difference in security between the two - but an advantage to Switzerland in convenience - but I wondered how the UK and Switzerland compare?

    2. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: The consumer would like some of Ofcom's attention too

      @ Richard Boyce: Consumers are still being forced to pay for old-style land lines while VoIP is suppressed.

      Are we to conclude from this comment that your preferred option is for (all) consumers to be forced to pay for an non - optional upgrade to FTTP? I am sure that consumers will be truly impressed at your generosity with their money.

      Are we to take it that you have incontrovertible evidence that this is what the majority of consumers want?

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    But infrastructure builders, such as Virgin Media and CityFibre, are less keen on the idea. "They have invested heavily in fibre, and concerned that opening up dark fibre would send the wrong message as it undermines the investment case for rolling out more fibre. It is also arguably at odds with Ofcom's position that it wants to incentivise more fibre investment,"

    Maybe. But maybe their objection is that what's source for the goose is source for the gander. If BT's fibre is to be opened up for all comers the same argument can be applied to theirs.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "But maybe their objection is that what's source for the goose is source for the gander. "

      Unlike BT's network, Virgin and Cityfibre weren't built with masses of government money, and nor have they been expanded using massive government grants given for the purpose.

      In any case all that's needed is an operational split and requirement to treat all players the same. Openreach can still stay as a for-profit company. The first thing it would do as a non-BT controlled outfit would be to make offers to provide service to Virgin/Cityfibre etc or buy them out to get access to _their_ ducts.

  4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    AFAICS the situation is this:

    For reasons of promoting competition BT was shut out of cable provision for years. When it became clear that the competitive situation wasn't going to deliver anything like a nationwide service once the cherry-picking was done BT was allowed in and started the much bigger investment of building a much wider FTTC network. Being an experienced telecoms company they laid capacity for expansion; much of the cost is in all the field operations so including the spare capacity now is a relatively small investment compared to what it would cost to do it later.

    Now everyone who didn't make such investments in the past and don't want to do so now or in the future want to be able to leech off BT's investment. And if that happens then at some future point when BT needs the capacity that they laid but no longer have and thus fails to provide some service whose fault will it be? BT's!

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      ... want to be able to leech off BT's investment

      Surely you mean rent some of that investment ? It's not like they are saying BT has to provide it free, anyone wanting to use it will have to pay a market rate (however that ends up being determined) for it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Hardly leeching when the dark fibre was laid off the back of Government contracts.

      Come on, you're making out that all the dark fibre in the ground, the utopia of 'the digital pump in every town' giving it George Osborne's budgetary funding analogy, was laid by BT solely for the purposes of BT, which is utter bollocks.

      Most of this dark fibre was laid at the same time as a consequence of publicly funded Government Contracts. BT got paid vast amounts to install Government funded fibre optic gatways/networks for public services, local government, NHS hospitals and schools etc. Add in things like the JANET Network for Universities too.

      Here's the Welsh Government's Press Release as an example, regarding the PSBA Contract for JANET.

      https://community.jisc.ac.uk/groups/janet-wales/document/psba-signs-contract-bt-psba-network-services.

      Maybe we need to bypass BT completely next time regarding full fibre FTTP rollout, if BT is finally forced to give full infrastructure access.

      Instead, look at paying BT's same sub-contractors independently and where available, use local Government CCTV ducts instead to connect schools, hospitals, local governments facilities and publicly own the dark fibre, because we as taxpayers paid for most of this dark fibre BT (and you) are stating they 'own' and no one else can use.

      The idea that BT would have just laid this dark fibre investment commercially (without a reason), or was done for soley for commercial FTTC is bollocks. We as taxpayers indirectly funded most of BT's dark fibre. BT have no right to restrict access as though it's 'solely theirs'. It's not as though those wanting to use it, aren't paying the going rate and some more.

      And if Government funded contracts funded VM/Cityfibre dark fibre in the same way, I'd say the same.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Hardly leeching when the dark fibre was laid off the back of Government contracts.

        "Maybe we need to bypass BT completely next time regarding full fibre FTTP rollout"

        You really think anyone else is going to find the finance a roll out a full FTTP network instead of just the areas where there are easy returns?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hardly leeching when the dark fibre was laid off the back of Government contracts.

          Well we both know BT 'the drunk blocking the pub doorway' will sit down on their hands, waiting to see which way the wind blows, waiting for even more handouts and hover over their "up to" copper carcass network like vultures in the meantime, rather than do anything which is remotely reasonable and pro-active like starting the long job of deploying full Fibre on all lines longer than 500m.

    3. JimboSmith Silver badge

      For reasons of promoting competition BT was shut out of cable provision for years. When it became clear that the competitive situation wasn't going to deliver anything like a nationwide service once the cherry-picking was done BT was allowed in and started the much bigger investment of building a much wider FTTC network. Being an experienced telecoms company they laid capacity for expansion; much of the cost is in all the field operations so including the spare capacity now is a relatively small investment compared to what it would cost to do it later.

      I remember reading an article (god knows where but it was years ago) which stated that BT were in a position to offer CATV. To be able to do so they would need to speed up the deployment of Broadband nationwide which was seen as the real prize. The article said that the regulator was dragging heels and whilst the cable companies were never going to extend their cables into rural Britain BT probably would.

  5. CJ_C

    Fibre is the prize!

    Fibre to the premises, with the right to light it, opens up all sorts of possibilities for scalability, cost saving through consolidation and improved disaster recovery. Higher education has depended on such services for over 10 years. Telcos will still generally only trade it with other telcos and BT will not deal at all. UK industry generally is the loser.

  6. Roland6 Silver badge

    Does any one actually know where all this dark fibre is?

    I am pushed to understand the true extent of the resource being discussed.

    It is really true that BT in rolling out FTTC, didn't put one fibre and a spare between the exchange and street cabinet, but put in a few dozen fibres, but only lit one.

    Likewise, in the backbone (exchange-to-exchange) network, just how much spare capacity/dark fibre is there.

    About the only place I can think of where potentially large amounts of dark fibre exist that is awaiting commercial exploitation, is in the local loop! Where BT for years has been deploying cable with copper and fibre cores, but only connecting the copper cores. But then access to this is available through sub-loop unbundling...

    I suspect the real reason behind this 'initiative' is to enable BT competitors to gain greater visibility of BT's network and so give them more ammunition to use against BT. We can be sure that when it is discovered that there isn't any dark fibre where a competitor such as Sky want it to go, they will be back knocking on Ofcom's door crying that BT isn't playing fair...

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Does any one actually know where all this dark fibre is?

      “It is really true that BT in rolling out FTTC, didn't put one fibre and a spare between the exchange and street cabinet, but put in a few dozen fibres, but only lit one.”

      Very likely yes. The cost of the actual cable isn’t that much. Paying people to dig up the roads to lay it is most of the cost, and it doesn’t cost any more to ask them to lay a load of them rather than just one strand.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Does any one actually know where all this dark fibre is?

        The cost of the actual cable isn’t that much. Paying people to dig up the roads to lay it is most of the cost, and it doesn’t cost any more to ask them to lay a load of them rather than just one strand.

        Agree, however, given how long Ofcom and BT competitors have been going on about access, it would not surprise me to find that BT simply laid the bare minimum of actual fibre to satisfy BT's immediate needs, leaving the rest as empty tubes for blown fibre...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Does any one actually know where all this dark fibre is?

          They'll probably cut the fibres 6 inches shorter so it can only reach the nearby BT equipment in the exchange and not their competitors, that sounds like a BT plan to me. It's no longer available then, in the bigger scheme of things, of documenting its presence.

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: Does any one actually know where all this dark fibre is?

            It's not just about fibre, it's about the ducts, and access.

            So BT's network is old. There's often limited duct space available, or ducts are full. Various grooming exercises might free up some space, or new build provides it. But new builds would have been sized based on BT's needs, or customer needs, so may not have enough space for everyone. Plus if you've ever watched Openreach, Fujitsu etc working in cable chambers, they're often blowing a few bits of fibre into microducts. Some parts may have 144f or 288f cables, but certainly not all. Other carriers build out network with a view to leasing either subducts, microducts or plain'ol pairs.

            So there are risks with allowing other operators to poke around with BT's infrastructure, ie cutting or splicing the wrong fibres. That can be avoided by having some form of interconnect, so at cabinet or exchange, or in-span where you dig a chamber near/next to BT and they hand-off fibre to your chamber. That's normal for other wholesale carriers. Then there's been various OSA-ish proposals, so rather than a dedicated fibre, it's a wavelength spun off via PON (Passive Optical Networking) using a filter cassette in a duct.

            Things to avoid though are the good'ol fibre burn problems that have lead to ducts being full in the first place, ie inefficient use of fibres.

          2. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Does any one actually know where all this dark fibre is?

      Dark Fibre != Unused Fibre.

      In this context, DF is just the glass i.e. without the terminating optical NTEs - Which would be provided by the Service Provider taking the service. Essentially a cut down and unmanaged version of the existing EAD product.

      This is about forcing Openreach to provide an 'unlit' Point-to-point fibre as a product, which the Service Provider can order and run at whatever bandwidth they wish by providing the appropriate optical NTEs, not using any unused fibres that may/may not already exist.

      Anon coz...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Of course none of this would be an issue if we still owned BT....

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "Of course none of this would be an issue if we still owned BT."

      Of course it wouldn't. You'd be on the waiting list for your black telephone.

  8. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    On a level playing field *all* fibre would be a central infrastrustructure resource

    So you want to be a "proper" ISP, with real hardware? Pay into the "Infrastructure Fund" and you can put your own boxes into whoevers exchange is nearest, and the cable is already there.

    BT, Virgin, Hull, or WTF Telecom.

    I know, that's a fantasy.

    BT seems an abusive monopolist but turning it on its head is there any evidence that getting into Vermin's ducts are any easier? Or even possible, given it is clearly their property?

  9. Charles Smith

    Leave BT alone

    Ofcom should stop harassing BT about true fibre optic infrastructure. They should allow BT to wallow in its media based legacy copper infrastructure while the competitive real telecommunication companies get on with giving this country a proper fibre network.

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: Leave BT alone

      while the competitive real telecommunication companies get on with giving this country a proper fibre network.

      Nothing has been stopping them doing that, but perhaps they would rather offload the risk of the ROI being less than they want by demanding that "someone else" (BT with or without Taxpayers' money) commit to all the capital expenditure and work involved while they (the somewhat elusive "real telecommunications companies") get access on a wholesale basis, charge their customers a significant mark - up and possibly offer crap customer support thereafter.

      Perhaps you could list the "real telecommunications companies" that you are referring to, just in case they aren't the usual suspects who spend a lot of time badgering Ofcom into getting them if not a free ride, a heavily discounted one.

  10. Adam Jarvis

    SHARON WHITE, OFCOM - WE NEED A FIRM DATE TO START THE LONG PROCESS OF SWITCHING OF COPPER.

    Let's forget all the crap about what happened 30 years ago. We need to focus on now.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Fed up reading 'retiree' posts about BT's chance to roll out fibre 30 years ago under Thatcher, it's the past forget it, move on, like trying to defend POTS as 'reliable' FFS, that's an oxymoron in itself.

    It's just a roundabout way of trying to defend BT's current obsession of 'Copper is good enough'.

    Who is BT to say what is 'good enough?'

    BT don't exactly have a good track record here, I think everyone remembers BT Doormat Campaigns trying to sell obsolete 64Kbps ISDN BT Home Highway, when 512Kbps ADSL first being rolled out in Cities like Edinburgh in 2000. They did the same when FTTC rolled out, selling ADSL for £5 amonth.

    BT told us then, ISDN 64Kbps/128Kbps Home HIghway was 'Good Enough'. Hindsight has clearly shown their "sit on hands, it's good enough" motives at the time, as now.

    If the (your) copper/alu line length is 500m or more (250m crow flies) there is no comparible 'cost-effective' copper based technology that will ever offer reliable blanket 100Mbps+ Ultrafast speeds to those customers.

    So BT may as well start on the road of deploying full fibre optic via overhead cables from telegraph poles to these customers (as they have been doing recently in Ceridigion, Wales-it can be done). It's a positive, not a negative that full fibre has more available capacity that most current day use-cases. It means you need to do the job once, and once only.

    "Let's make a fcuking start BT/Ofcom".

    LR-VDSL/vapourware Pointless G.fast is being used as a delaying tactic by BT, a means to control the final bit of wet string between the customer and the ISP, so BT have the final say, on the single obfuscated, bamboozled "up to" copper carcass service being offered.

    Full Fibre FTTP has the future potential to offer true competition, to offer the services of multiple ISPs at once, outwith the control of BT. That has got to help competition. Why do you think BT are hesitant to rollout out full fibre?

    In terms of rural customers with lines of 500m or more. There is no a hope in hell of getting blanket ultrafast coverage for these customers using Pointless G.fast copper tech, that is both reliable and cheap (needs a vast array of G.fast node, which require connection to the mains grid. If you attempt to shorten the copper line length between the customer and Fibre backhaul, in terms of FTTC/Pointless G.fast the costs rise exponentially, as do the electricity/mains grid connection costs.

    BT know it, I know it, full Fibre is the only real cost effective solution here, and it's a positve, not a negative - because of all the added benefits.

    SHARON WHITE, OFCOM - WE NEED A FIRM DATE TO START THE LONG PROCESS OF SWITCHING OF COPPER (ESP ON LINES OVER 500M) , BY END OF 2017.

    JUST DO IT.

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: SHARON WHITE, OFCOM - WE NEED A FIRM DATE TO START THE LONG PROCESS OF SWITCHING OF COPPER.

      SHARON WHITE, OFCOM - WE NEED A FIRM DATE TO START THE LONG PROCESS OF SWITCHING OF COPPER (ESP ON LINES OVER 500M) , BY END OF 2017. and...

      Who is BT to say what is 'good enough?'

      And who exactly are you to make that demand of Ofcom?

      For the avoidance of doubt I fully agree that subscribers at the end of a "long line" are currently getting a raw deal, and that a workable solution has to be implemented to provide them with a better service, but there is no reason why that solution has to involve re-engineering all those for whom a mix of fibre and copper provides a perfectly satisfactory service, even on a time scale which you admit yourself would be long.

      As has been pointed out (almost times without number over the months and years) there is an Ofcom requirement (that actually goes way back long before Ofcom was ever thought of) that subscribers' telephones must continue to function even if the subscibers themselves have lost mains power. Clearly there are ways of making that continue to happen if FTTP was to be introduced, but they require the beefing up of the reserve supplies in street furniture and having battery - backed terminating equipment in subs premises. In turn that raises questions about how much responsibility subs would have to take for the guaranteed working of the terminal equipment (batteries don't last forever, even if only on standby duty) and how much would have to be the responsibility of the Telco. And so on...

      So I repeat my question: And who exactly are you to make that demand of Ofcom?

      And for the avoidance of any other doubt I am not, and never have been, employed by BT or any other Telco.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. Adam Jarvis

    Re: SHARON WHITE, OFCOM - WE NEED A FIRM DATE TO START THE LONG PROCESS OF SWITCHING OF COPPER.

    My name is in black and white unlike yours.

    I've written my views on UK's broadband here and elsewhere since 2008 (inc TV transmission, advocating iPlayer technologies over the Digital Switchover long before iPlayer became mainstream).

    Back then, it was the technical deliverables of up to 40Mbps FTTC (before it was deployed) what I posted then (probably the first person to post technical pitfalls of FTTC) remains valid today in terms of speed/distances achieved. That's quite a technical feat, maybe I should call myself Commswonk?

    And you are exactly?

    Self-grandee titled hidden anonymous "Commswonk" (blowing your own trumpet somewhat, for someone so set in the past at preserving POTS-Plain Old Telephone Service).

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but there is no way copper lines* longer than 500m could ever get blanket ultrafast 100Mbps+ speeds over copper reliably or cheaply as I've explained (and explained).

    As soon as start deploying copper solutions for lines longer than 500m, the costs and amount of active technology (number of nodes) required spiral, as does the electricity running costs and maintenance. Hence, why it would be a 'can of worms' to fault find on such a network.

    The same bullshit paraded by BT apologists including weasels Ofcom "we're technology agnostic, don't blame us -Ofcom". The utopia that 'future' copper technologies can still come to the rescue of these customers with lines longer than 500m+, it can't and won't, well not in any real world situation.

    Blanket ultrafast 100Mbps+ coverage (what we should be aiming for a minimum, for the UK as whole) just can't be done comparatively cheaply using FTTC/G.fast, verses fibre, on these longer 500m+ lines.

    It's about time you faced facts, the idea it can is 'delaying' vapourware bullshit, once you add in all the complications G.fast causes. Yep, you can keep patching over the cracks, but it's not the solution.

    Pointless G.fast is literally pointless on lines over 500m and the cost of reducing the copper distance, with the incease in mains grid power required, ongoing metered electricity usage of this active G.fast node network, long term it's just a waste of money compared to full fibre rollout.

    Fibre optic outweighs it in every aspect at these 500m+ line lengths, as does using a single type of technology, i.e. sticking to Fibre, going forward, retiring the copper network.

    Your answer Commswonk is to ignore the plight of customers with copper/alu lines longer than 500m, as though some vapourware mixed solution using a combo of "up to" copper tech will work. It's the wrong approach, it won't and produces an expensive 'can of worms' in maintenance terms. A real practical headache to maintain.

    It will become increasingly more expensive to maintain copper based POTS/ADSL/FTTC on short lines near a cabinet when vectored ultrafast frequencies are operating in the adjacent copper cables and mean maintenance/fault finding/firmware upgrade costs will rise. Rurally, there just isn't the manpower to maintain that, and those maintenance costs will be passed onto consumers anyway, and those customer will still have crappy copper.

    So your solution is to throw your "good enough?" crumbs, to shut them up. it certainly won't silence everyone and as this (your) generation ages and dies off, the next will be even more vocal to BT's current "Sit on hands approach - wait for handouts".

    The bamboozled, obfscuated "up to" problem isn't going away, whatever copper carcass crumbs you want to throw.

    As I've said, who are BT to say what is "Good enough?", they don't have a good past record here.

    I'm writing for the many (mainly the plight of the non-technical consumer/and their MPs) that don't understand the technical limitations of their crappy obfuscated, bamboozled "up to" BT Broadband over 500m or longer cursed copper lines, that still (stupidly) believes one day they too will get ultrafast 100Mbps+ G.fast over that copper line, over that 500m+ distance. In the real world - they won't.

    Who are you writing for?

    Yourself. Self interest, nothing else. It's you that is thinking of the few. (well just yourself by the looks of it). And all because you are individually obsessed by keeping AGE UK 's aid call device working on POTS line. So can we assume you have more than a singular vested interest in Age UK's Aid Call over POTS.

    *(real world wet string twisted pair 0.5mm BT copper lines)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: SHARON WHITE, OFCOM - WE NEED A FIRM DATE TO START THE LONG PROCESS OF SWITCHING OF COPPER.

      "I've written my views on UK's broadband here and elsewhere since 2008 (inc TV transmission, advocating iPlayer technologies over the Digital Switchover long before iPlayer became mainstream)."

      It seems he has:

      http://www.zdnet.com/article/bt-launch-race-to-infinity-yes-rural-fibre-has-really-become-a-lottery/

    2. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: SHARON WHITE, OFCOM - WE NEED A FIRM DATE TO START THE LONG PROCESS OF SWITCHING OF COPPER.

      @ Adam Jarvis: Who moved your cheese?

      Your post is probably the most personally abusive that I have ever seen on El Reg, to the point where I think it says more about you than it does about me. I did wonder about putting "Report Abuse" to the test but decided against it so that as many people as possible can read your rant for themselves.

      To respond to a specific point, you wrote Your answer Commswonk is to ignore the plight of customers with copper/alu lines longer than 500m, but if you had taken the trouble to read what I wrote earlier you would have realised that I clearly recognised that those at the end of long lines did need a solution, specifically by writing For the avoidance of doubt I fully agree that subscribers at the end of a "long line" are currently getting a raw deal, and that a workable solution has to be implemented to provide them with a better service, but there is no reason why that solution has to involve re-engineering all those for whom a mix of fibre and copper provides a perfectly satisfactory service, even on a time scale which you admit yourself would be long.

      Please explain how that is - to use your words - to ignore the plight of customers with copper/alu lines longer than 500m...?

      And this sentence is completely and utterly wrong: Yourself. Self interest, nothing else. It's you that is thinking of the few. (well just yourself by the looks of it). And all because you are individually obsessed by keeping AGE UK 's aid call device working on POTS line. So can we assume you have more than a singular vested interest in Age UK's Aid Call over POTS. Any such assumption is incorrect.

      It's about time for you to learn to accept the the existence of opinions that differ from yours with good grace, even if you believe those opinions to be incorrect.

      To expand on the "let's not ditch copper entirely" theme, it is worth bearing mind that AIUI BT's revenue on fixed lines is falling, with more and more residential users relying on mobile telephony and data. What do you think the outcome might be if fixed line costs were to be significantly increased by a mass conversion to FTTP; the demand for fixed lines would fall even further so that the conversion cost might never be amortised. Hardly a good outcome.

      So - you asked me about for whom I was speaking; the answer is, I suppose, for those not emotionally consumed for a need for greater data bandwidth, and perhaps for those who do not have an inexhaustable supply of money to pay for an increasingly expensive service that exceeds their requirements by a large margin. I don't doubt that you may speak for a section of the data consuming community, but I'm not sure that you have the right to claim that you speak for all. You accused me of writing out of self interest; you aren't I suppose...

      1. Adam Jarvis

        Re: SHARON WHITE, OFCOM - WE NEED A FIRM DATE TO START THE LONG PROCESS OF SWITCHING OF COPPER.

        @ Adam Jarvis: Who moved your cheese?

        You did with the line...

        "And who exactly are you to make that demand of Ofcom?"

        Ofcom is BT's regulator. If I (or anyone) can't question weasel Ofcom's incompetence, what's the point of Ofcom? If I have the qualifications/technical background to do that, even better.

        I'm not sure BT weasels/Ofcom weasels even like cheese . You can stuff any other sycophantic approach too; the BBC's endless sycophantic approach to the Royal Family/public school "Boris Johnson" Elitism while you're at it, aka. the "wonks" of this world.

        I don't need some "special status" to question weasels BT/Ofcom. Hence, the 'fcuk off' approach.

        As Linus Torvalds would say, don't take it personally, I only care about getting better, ubiquitous Ultrafast Broadband for the UK.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: SHARON WHITE, OFCOM - WE NEED A FIRM DATE TO START THE LONG PROCESS OF SWITCHING OF COPPER.

          Disclaimer: I'm (very) Ex-BT. And whilst there, I learned that they used to have cable ferrets with lil harnesses for cable pulling.

          But Mr Jarvis makes some good points, ie-

          The bamboozled, obfscuated "up to" problem isn't going away, whatever copper carcass crumbs you want to throw.

          That's an industry issue, and one where Ofcom could help reduce FUD. It's a fundamental technical issue with copper (and also fibre*) delivery and DSL. You can make some educated guesses based on loop length and line test results pre-install, but won't know until after install and modem training. G.993.2 + G.993.5 = Up to 350Mbps, which arguably is 'good enough' for most users. And unachievable for many due to loop length, quality.

          Oh.. and politics. Fast DSL and vectoring doesn't play nicely with others, eg LLU operators or legacy services over copper. Kick those off, and some near/far end x-talk and co-channel interference issues vanish, which is the technical ideal in an FTTC world. Lil harsh for competitors though. But that's where regulatory gamesmanship comes in, and most incumbents are very skilled in that game. See also the US where Verizon made big noises about the benefits of FTTP via FiOS, and where much quieter about the way that services excluded OLOs from access to that network.

          Which is pretty much where we're at with fibre access proposals. Full residential fibre rollout, ie fibre to the exchange would require massive investment, both from BT and it's competitors, and someone has to pay for that.. Which can get tricky when customers expect their Internet for £9.99 a month or less.

          *Fibre also has distance limitations, especially if operators expect to be able to use cheap multi-mode optics..

  12. Lorribot

    Virgin too?

    I wonder if Ofcom will ever get around to making Virgin open up it's network to everyone who wants to sell cable services to its customers? Seems on fair.

    I know of many Virgin customers that woudl be very happy to have an alternative.

  13. streaky Silver badge

    Seperation..

    despite the legal separation of Openreach

    I take issue with this. Despite the fanfare Openreach is "separated" from BT like Youtube is separate from Google, i.e. in name only, and not really even that. As long as we pretend they're actually distinct companies when they're not nothing will change.

  14. Adam Jarvis

    Re: SHARON WHITE, OFCOM - WE NEED A FIRM DATE TO START THE LONG PROCESS OF SWITCHING OF COPPER.

    If you ever wonder what motivates me, I think of every poor bastard 'volunteering' (yet still smiling, doing something they don't have to), standing in a muddy field to dig a trench on a cold Autumnal day because they know how important it is to get fibre optic Broadband laid for ALL of their rural community and the next generation to come.

    At the same time thinking of those BT Accountants/CTOs/Ofcom (Ex-BT) types in London on 10x the salary (and the total cost of all this utterly useless oversight*) pontificating the merits of laying fibre to rural communities, speaking in a manner, justifying the exclusion of rural communities in the rollout as though they're a bit backward, thick and don't deserve it, sterotypes a plenty, with little understanding of the direct contracts (with fines) Tesco and other Supermarkets impose on UK suppliers, for 'just in time' delivery of meats, milk, vegetables in terms farming communities.

    The meeting finishes and the same people head to a supermarket, pick up those meats, milk off those shelves without even a thought of the technical logistical processes that got them there.

    Ofcom you are now in the firing line, genuinely I think every UK Broadband customer would be better off without you.

    Ofcom get off your arse and do something to get this distance dependent obfuscated, bamboozled "up to" copper carcass switched off and new full fibre laid by default in all circumstances. Stop listening to the technically biased information in favour of the copper carcass, by interested parties that own that copper carcass i.e. BT.

    Regulating for a 10Mbps USO is a complete waste of time. It's regulatory 'paper shuffling' for the sake of it that achieves nothing substantial, in order to justify Ofcom's self serving position (and BT's), nothing else.

    No one starting today, would think of using copper to provide a telecom network , if BT don't care about the whole of the UK, why should the UK care about BT. If it comes to it, we as a nation need to side step BT completely, step over "BT acting like the drunk blocking the pub doorway", to get to the bar, so to speak.

    Ofcom, you need to drop your "We're Technology Agnostic" weasel words, and start sticking up for customers based on their circumstance, (by that, the technical underlying problem that prevents those customers getting Ultrafast speeds). Ofcom - you can't be technology agnostic, it's totally the wrong approach.

    With gritted teeth, B4RN is showing the way and has done the hard work in terms of Alt-Nets, to provide a pathway others can follow, we need a new model the rest of the remote parts of the UK can use too (all those lines longer 500m because there is currently no plans on providing blanket Ultrafast speeds to those customers, copper technologies don't work at this length of copper for Ultrafast and never will).

    Ofcom you need to stop pretending they will, you are complicit here with BT, regards G.fast.

    The current Ofcom regulatory model doesn't work, it's plainly obvious, because it blatantly allows BT (acting as the drunk blocking the pub doorway) sit on hands - wait for handouts" to play their cards in this manner.

    I rather see BT to provide fibre to the nearest telegraph pole, to green splitter boxes and stop there (as has happened in Wales), but leaving the final full fibre FTTP connection costs to ISPs, instead of Pointless G.fast to the premises, in which BT hold control of that final piece of pointless copper 'wet string' which can only provide a single service, deliberately left in place to maintain their monopolistic control over the broadband market, to pretend Broadband is some sort of 'finite resource' applying their tiered pricing model.

    G.fast is anti-competitive.

    The G.fast market is rigged in BT's favour (OK, to the first Telco (which will nearly always be BT) to install it to a cabinet/'pod', WarwickNet understands this though), because as soon as the first CP installs G.fast, no other CP can provide alternate copper-based services (ADSL/FTTC) to those customers in the same cabinet, on adjacent copper, they have to compete using full Fibre.

    Ofcom, you talk of "competition" yet you allow this G.fast rigging of the market to take place.

    (*Regulation that wouldn't need to exist if we had fibre in the ground, instead of copper.)

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: SHARON WHITE, OFCOM - WE NEED A FIRM DATE TO START THE LONG PROCESS OF SWITCHING OF COPPER.

      Regulation would always need to exist, if only to prevent market failure. Our regulation isn't limited just to BT, but also shows where it can be a bit toothless.. So Virgin's been running it's 'fibre' ads for years when the customer connection blatently isn't.

      Incumbents always have the advantage, and always try to maintain their monopoly/market share. Regulators (and politicians) sometimes try to 'fix' the problem, but often make things worse due to lack of clue. Or lack of strategic vision. Or just looking at the cost/complexity and kicking the can down the road.

      And current 'solutions' can be less than ideal. So government annouces a pile of cash for rural broadband. Speculators think 'nice pork!' and start building out network islands. Dig in some infrastructure, slap on some transit and maybe buy some wholesale minutes, and you can provide a limited & often incompatible service. So lots of mini-Hulls springing up around the UK.

      Having a USO is a start as it's something to aim at.. But IMHO, it's the wrong solution. Fragmentation is the wrong solution. Competition in access networks doesn't really work as most of the competion's built to try and capture the low-hanging fruit. Want fibre in Docklands and you're spoiled for choice. Want it to a dairy in Ruralshire? Well.. excess construction charges could be a significant portion of your farm's income.. And probably profit.

      Which is a mess bigger than Ofcom. They may be able to advise other civil servants, but it really needs a political decision to make it happen.. Which pragmatically might be to renationalise Openreach, fund fibre and make sure services over basic infrastructure are open to competition. But that's currently not really possible, partly due to apathy, competition concerns and of course the good'ol EU and state aid rules. Especially as 'digital' is an area where the EU's trying to flex it's muscles and set policy across the whole EU block.

    2. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: SHARON WHITE, OFCOM - WE NEED A FIRM DATE TO START THE LONG PROCESS OF SWITCHING OF COPPER.

      The case for radical improvements to what might loosely be described as "rural broadband" is substantial - almost unassailable. However conflating that case with arguing for the replacement of mixed fibre / copper transmission on a nationwide basis makes "rural fibre" that much harder to achieve.

      Unless you happen to believe that the copper element can be removed without cost then without a Magic Money Tree any money spent upgrading FTTC to FTTP will detract from that available for rural provision. Perversely if BT or anyone else got rid of FTTC (replacing it with FTTP) it could quite legitimately claim that it had materially increased the average speed available to UK customers, although at the same time it would have done nothing to help those in rural areas who have a poor or no service now. To put it another way, in what way would converting urban areas from FTTC to FTTP help rural customers? It wouldn't help them at all. The rural customers need addressing properly (I have never argued otherwise) and introducing a (in my view spurious) need to ditch copper in urban locations just fogs the overall picture.

      On top of that do you really imagine that "urban" users are going to thank you for an enforced upgrade that will almost certainly be accompanied by a significant price increase to cover the significant cost of converting to FTTP? Personally I rather doubt it.

      I'm not trying to pretend that Ofcom is a "perfect" regulator (FWIW I have no connection with the organisation) but I strongly doubt if trying to bully it is going to achieve what you want. You might object to my word "bully" but given the terms in which you have described it I cannot think of any other word to use. Although it probably wouldn't admit it I would expect Ofcom to keep an eye on the transactions on this forum so there is a more than fair chance that it has seen your opinion of it and as a consequence decided to disregard anything you say; submissions to be filed along with those written in green ink.

  15. hoola

    Pot Kettle & Black

    And what about the shambles where Virgin are digging up all the pavements, burying a fibre 6" under and vaguely putting it back.

    Why ate they not being "forced" to open up the network?

    BT may not be perfect, but like Royal Mail do have a universal service obligation. Push that onto Virgin and see where you get. Competition is only competition if it is equal. Currently all the "new" private companies are only interested in the profit making urban areas. Telecomms, parcels & letters. This leaves diminishing profits for the former public services that are still bound by regulation that do not apply to others.

    I am sure Virgin will be only too happy to permit a newcomer to the market use their fibre and cable infrastructure, probably at below cost.

    Ofcom are a total waste of space and are incapable of looking at anything other than BT/Royal Mail. There will be a truck full of lobbying in the background from Virgin, Deutche Post, UPS and they are all as bad.

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