Re: fibre to the hamlets
To a certain extent this is the reverse of the problems Royal Mail have. They also have a USO to deliver anywhere in the UK at the same cost. Private companies have come into take all the fat out of the business because no one wants to do the last few miles because it is expensive. The irony with Royal Mail is that they are forced to deliver (albeit for a small costs) all the private companies mail that they have collected cheaply in urban areas.
Whoever picks up the USO is going to expect subsidies and be of a sufficient size to be able to implement them. I am not sure the arguments that you will not get the service are correct, the point of USO is that you have to deliver.
BT come in for a lot of bad press but they are probably no worse than any of the others and they appear have to operate under far more restrictive practices than the likes of Virgin. They just have the cheapest possible contract dig everywhere up, put a duct 6" down, loosely reinstate the hole and walk away. Cabinets put in where ever it is convenient for them, even if the location is insanely stupid with almost no recourse to getting them moved.
Near where I live:
BT - Had to put a green cabinet more or less out of sight
Virgin - Gey cabinets in front of municipal flowerbed, benches gardens, blocking pavements.
BT - Trenches correctly filled and sealed so that they are still flat several years later
Virgin - Trenches sinking from day one, contractors not even going back to fix errors identified by their own inspectors.
The Council then has to pick up the bill for all the remediation work in 12 months time that is ultimately paid for by your taxes.
All these start up broadband providers all appear to want access to all the infrastructure without having to contribute to its maintenance or development but are only prepared to do stuff where the population density means they can make a profit.