back to article MPs attack BT's 'monopolistic' grip on gov-subsidised £1.2bn rural broadband rollout

The UK government has completely screwed up the deployment of faster internet connections to Brits living in the countryside because it failed to properly address competition concerns as a result of its awarding all its broadband contracts to BT, politicians concluded today. MPs sitting on the public accounts committee …


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  1. IHateWearingATie

    Could competition have worked?

    I do wonder whether we were barking up the wrong tree trying the competition angle at all, and whether it would have been better to do a top level deal with BT and Virgin from the outset, with some cash set aside for communities to go it alone where it isn't commercially viable.

    With hindsight, I do wonder whether no matter what we had done, under the existing regulatory and EU competition laws there would have been the same result anyway.

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: Could competition have worked?

      Virgin? What have they got to do with rural broadband? Look at a map of their coverage -!lat=54.43621959127021&lng=-2.74108774609374&zoom=6&type=terrain&cable-coverage

      It's hilarious. The day that I see Virgin laying fibre along the country lanes of East Anglia, Yorkshire, Cornwall and Ceredigion, is the day I might take them seriously. They're only interested in cheap and cheerful high-density housing.

      In terms of rural services, there really is no competition and there probably shouldn't be. What's the sense of five companies laying pipes/cable/fibre whatever into a rural area with a population of a few hundred? Better to have a monopoly with controls to ensure they a) provide a fair service and b) don't rip off the customers.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Could competition have worked?

        Better to have a monopoly with controls to ensure they a) provide a fair service and b) don't rip off the customers.

        But that is exactly the problem. I have a friend who lives North of Norwich (just before it gets really wet :), and his BT circuit is so contended we can't use Skype in the evening, even without video it simply sucks, and his throughput is what I used to have 20 years ago in Hong Kong when we had to pick up London email via a Compuserve link. His problem is simple: he would shift to another provider tomorrow if there was one, but because BT has a monopoly there is absolutely ZERO incentive for BT to run fiber - they'll be milking the existing infrastructure until the noise gets too loud politically. Which hasn't happened yet.

        Actually, come to think of it - organising people may be the way forward because I cannot see anything change otherwise.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Could competition have worked?

          "and his BT circuit is so contended we can't use Skype in the evening"

          Contention isn't a last mile issue, it occurs at the edge of the network. Swapping to a different ISP who have lower contention ratios and who buy larger amounts of backhaul would change the throughput.

          1. Bluenose

            Re: Could competition have worked?

            And the problem with that solution is that you find yourself needing to swap providers every year as all your neighbours pile on to the provider with the best performance.

            I watched my TalkTalk service go from good to OK to very poor indeed. Switched to BT which was very good, has no gone to OK and by next year will be pretty awful.

            While changing suppliers is straightforward it is a right pain and I don't want to be switching suppliers every year, I want to make use of the broadband.

            1. itzman

              Re: Could competition have worked?

              No: it doesn't work that way. the smaller providers make enough money to keep their banwidth at a sane level for demand.

              At £25 per month I have never had, nor expect to have, a contention issue.

              If you want the service, pay the bloomin money for it.

          2. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: Could competition have worked? @AC

            >BT circuit is so contended we can't use Skype in the evening

            Suspect that rural Norfolk isn't that well served and the only available LLU's are: BT, TalkTalk/CPW and Sky (the original Sky LLU, not the recently acquired O2/BE LLU). My preference would be to switch to a BT Wholesale Business broadband package via a third-party ISP such as Zen and attach a decent router (eg. Draytek) to make the best of the available line speed and throughput.

            If line speed is sub 1Mbps then need to assess whether a second DSL line (and router that can simultaneously use 2 DSL lines) would be beneficial or if a 3G phone or dongle (with external antenna) is usable.

        2. Steven Jones

          Re: Could competition have worked?

          Contention is all to do with how much bandwidth the ISP installs in the backhaul (plus things like peering). Quite how the backhaul is provisioned depends on the particular exchange and what the long haul options are, but in any event, it's "just" a matter of money. Note that some operators (mentioning no names) have the reputation of being parsimonious on exchanges they haven't unbundled as they have to buy the back-haul (at least to a hand-off point) from BT Wholesale. If they cared to buy more bandwidth, then the congestion would be eased or even eliminated.

          Anyway, the point is to pester the ISP with complaints, and if all else fails, use an ISP with a better reputation for managing congestion.

      2. itzman

        Re: Could competition have worked?

        Fair points.

        There is a huge problem in service provision infrastructure where the most cost effective solution is some sort of de facto monopoly.

        Whether its roads, railways, gas pipes, electricity cables or phone and optical fibre, it doesn't make sense to have two entities supplying the same service to the same location.

        Unfortunately neither nationalisation or regulation have served us particularly well..

        My only tentative solution is to say that such matters might be best passed to local councils, whose own local taxpayers could fund the schemes, or not, as they saw fit.

        And then rent the infrastructure to anyone who wanted to send packets over it.

        But since the highly paid CEOS of district councils are unable to even organise cost effective bin collection, I fear that one would lead to trouble as well.

      3. IHateWearingATie

        Re: Could competition have worked?

        Virgin because of suburban in-fill (there are quite a few places that get crap broadband over BT wires and the Virgin cable is at the end of a road close but doesn't extend down it) and new estates and edges of towns they are in already.

        Agree their network model would mean they are unlikely to be laying cable down country lanes.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BT's Lobbying Machine

    Looks like BT's lobbyists cooked up some nice business for BT.

    I wonder which MP's involved will be offered a consultancy at BT in the future ?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Incumbent get more cash from incumbent fund

    As BT inherited it's infrastructure, it also inherited large swaves of the country that will never get BB no matter what the Gov say.

    Some villages are afterthoughts, tapped from copper that already went miles past then back again so can never get BB unless new cabling is run and the cost would be prohibitive commercially (50 or so houses). BT will never run to these without the funding being ring fenced to do the project.

    At the moment, the 95% of the country funding is being spent on the 20% that will net BT the most profit short term, and the government is further "gifting" them the infrastructure costs back.

    win-win for BT

    And the fund was started by the Gov that Hodge was part of.........

    Pot meet Kettle

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Incumbent get more cash from incumbent fund

      Hmm, isn't there a way to run this wireless? Having said that, laying fibre also increases "traditional" capacity for phone and mobile, so there are some incentives to sort this out, but I agree, money is the key issue here.

      We couldn't *possibly* demand from BT not to make the massive profits it's used to..

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Incumbent get more cash from incumbent fund

        Yes - there was a startup in cambridge doing to-the-house microwave links with tiny antennae

        But it only made sense in volume and since BT was required to run a copper line for your fixed phone - whatever the cost - there was no market for a more expensive (to the home owner) link. Even though it would have actually cost less overall.

      2. jockmcthingiemibobb

        Re: Incumbent get more cash from incumbent fund

        etc etc

        Rural WISP's are already doing this so why can't the Government throw them a few bones? As the article indicates the situation is even worse is that BT are suitably vague about their coverage so WISP's run a huge risk of spending money on infrastructure and marketing only to find BT decide to roll in, subsidy and all.

      3. rhydian

        @AC Incumbent get more cash from incumbent fund


        Hmm, isn't there a way to run this wireless? Having said that, laying fibre also increases "traditional" capacity for phone and mobile, so there are some incentives to sort this out, but I agree, money is the key issue here."

        Wireless is brilliant if you happen to live somewhere that has the topography of a snooker table (hence its popularity in East Anglia). It's not as much use in hilly terrain as lines of sight are much less likely.

    2. nematoad Silver badge

      Re: Incumbent get more cash from incumbent fund

      "As BT inherited it's infrastructure, it also inherited large swaves of the country that will never get BB no matter what the Gov say."


      Should be swathes.

      Not even sure it's the right word.

      From wordnic:

      swathe (swŏþ, swôþ, swāþ)

      v. To wrap or bind with or as if with bandages.

      v. To enfold or constrict.

      n. A wrapping, binding, or bandage.

      1. Dave Bell

        Re: Incumbent get more cash from incumbent fund

        I did a quick check, and that certainly fits with the phrase "swathed in bandages", but the alternative definition develops from grass mowing (the strip of cut grass) into a strip or area of land.

        Checking Wordnik, I reckon that the distinction it makes between "swathe" and "swath" has thrown you off. The plural formation is ambiguous, and it is one of those slightly obscure words for most people. It's almost a cliche, a bit of a rhetorical archaism in either sense, and I suspect you'd need a connection to farming to have heard the word in day-to-day use.

        And all this points up the risks of relying on a single online source. If you miss the "alternative" spelling pointer in Wordnik, you misdirected. British dictionaries are different. We do indeed have two countries divided by a common language.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Never going to work without competition

    How could this ever possibly have worked without real competition? As it stands BT decides which areas aren't "commercially viable", BT then gets public money to (in effect) bribe them into installing fibre, BT then pockets the profit from operating it. It's basically an invitation to BT to hold off on enough viable but less profitable deployments as are needed to exhaust the government funds available, and keep truly unprofitable deployments in reserve for the next round of free public money.

    1. MrXavia

      Re: Never going to work without competition

      I think infrastructure should be government owned & ran, it IS a public service...

      Then they can sell the access to people like TalkTalk, BT, Virgin etc, who can sell it to us...

      In other words BT Wholesale should be nationalised....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Never going to work without competition

        Downvoted because no way should BT Wholesale be nationalised. They aren't the infrastructure subsidiary - BT OpenReach is.

        BT OpenReach absolutely should be a separate company and there might (just might) be a case made for that entity to be nationalised. But the track record of nationalised companies being fleet-of-foot in a fast-moving technological sphere is hardly stunningly successful so don't consider it a guarantted solution by a long chalk.

        Also, remember, the issue here isn't so much about the extent of coverage, but knowing just where won't be covered so that other suppliers have a chance and won't be shafted if the goalposts are moved. Would a nationalised company really be more open ?? I remain to be convinced.

        1. itzman

          Re: Never going to work without competition

          What MIGHT work is some kind of law change that gave anyone the right to - say - use BT ducting, or in fact to use a mole to lay conduit below someone else's agricultural land.

          Line of sight from me to the exchange is about a mile and a quarter largely across open fields. I could hire a tractor and mole and a conduit layer and do the job in a week..even closer is a mast with a BT cabinet at its base and microwave antennae all over it.

          The problem is wayleave and bureaucracy.

          The reality of even laying a mains cable underground for a few hundred meters is weeks of planning and consultation, erection of safety barriers, etc etc. Do it on your OWN property (and I have) and its a matter of half a day with a small digger..

          As with nuclear power stations, 2/3rds of the cost is the bureaucracy that must be complied with. and only about 10% is the actual cost of 'doing the actual job' with the remainder being probably necessary sign-age and H & S steps taken.

          Underground work is estimated at something like £50k per kilometer on PUBLIC land. Three blokes and a digger can do that in three days - probably less than £3,000 - on PRIVATE land.

    2. Don Jefe

      Re: Never going to work without competition

      Competition is generally a good thing, but it isn't the great equalizing force it is often credited as being. Before everybody fires off downvotes, let me explain.

      Competition is very similar to participants in a duel of honor. It is extraordinarily refined behavior in the first place and the only reason for two (or more) companies to compete instead of conspire to manipulate pricing is because the competitors see greater benefit in divvying up a given market, to suit their individual strengths, than work out extremely complex market manipulation schemes.

      But the equation doesn't always work out like that. It isn't exactly hard to fix pricing and get away with it you know. Hell, it goes on every single day, and those not directly involved actually pay to read about it in market analysis reports, but they don't know what they're really looking at. That's not crucial to my point though.

      In a formal duel (competition) the participants (market leaders) must agree on the rules of the engagement and adhere to them, without trickery or deceit or weasel word justifications for 'cheating', or the entire purpose of the engagement, honorable behavior to settle differences in a civilized way, is rendered impotent.

      Just having 'competition' is less than useless if both parties aren't following the same rules, in the same way. Which, in the case of telecoms in British held European territories, is further away than solar panels being an economically viable form of power generation.

      Those weasel words I mentioned earlier? Yeah, if those are in play before the engagement ever begins the engagement cannot, and will not, meet the requirements for an honorable competition. If BT, one of the most lopsided assaults on capitalism in the world, gets to pick its opponents, its competition, then there's really no point in even pretending that competition is a thing within their realm. This kind of thing is the same bullshit, bizzaro world thinking that led to the conclusion that democracy worldwide would be strengthened by destroying democracy in Iran and installing a dictator. It's just fucking stupid.

      Before competition can be of use to you folks, something has to be done about BT. As long as they control your Parliament it's just a waste of money to go scribbling something in the field marked 'Competition'. Paying lip service to an idea never helps anything, and it almost always does more harm than doing nothing.

      It's not a big place you know, and the fact that it takes national level action to even discuss the idea is a really good indicator something(s) royally (Ha! cause you guys have royalty, get it?) fucked up. The service area is small, there's little, even moderately rough terrain, you guys sorted out the whole 'crossing international borders' thing quite some time ago and you all speak the same language (mostly). Everything about this should be an easy win for some company. Jesus, BT isn't even rigging the system correctly. Everybody knows the big money is in rolling out the infrastructure and just cranking up rates on a perpetual basis. That way politicians have to support you or they'll be remembered by their constituents as 'the MP that lost the Internet'. God I hate BT.

      At the end of the day, it would probably be cheaper, and certainly more entertaining, if instead of giving tax monies to BT, if you spent the money on beer, booze and beef and just strung the cables yourselves.

  5. All names Taken
    Paris Hilton

    Shame really

    Whilst BT claims it is making further concessions, this is not impacting on rural communities

    Yes, this is unintended consequence on part of politicos and intended consequence on part of incumbents (well in the UK for sure that is, can't say 'bout US of A or elsewhere).

    For why? Did I hear you ask?

    THe multitude of sins by omission or commission or neglect by an once monopoly governanced into a low company under "privatisation" initiatives has a lot to protect and probably a lot to hide. Not for the sake of the authority-monopoly thingy but for the sake of its incumbents of the times.

    Example: Local council cost savings. The first traunch of cuts probably aimed at retaining frontline services as a priority. The trouble is that if second traunch of cuts aim at retaining frontline services as a priority the public might be inclined to ask something like:

    Hey dood! How did you manage all those cuts of 144 gazillion and still retain frontline and essential services better than before? Huh, huh?

    But CEOs are CEOs and know that in order to save face over mismanagement of resources the second traunch must, absolutely and above all contain loss of essential and frontline services.

    Besides, there is an election soon?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The UK government has completely screwed up...

    Sale of Royal Mail? Roll out of rural broadband? Pretty much everything, in fact.

    So not much of a news item.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge

      Re: The UK government has completely screwed up...

      Sale of Royal Mail? Roll out of rural broadband? Pretty much everything, in fact.

      And yet we still have people like one of the earlier commentards demanding that BT (or parts of it) be nationalised to improve the roll-out. Amazing, ain't it?

      Truth is no-one but a large monopolistic provider could ever have done what BDUK wanted. The wholesaling requirements were killer. These are areas where everyone will struggle to roll-out an upgrade and then Ofcom (rightly so) insist that the provider offer wholesale access to the network. So all that expense and you aren't even allowed a full return on your efforts. Ofcom and its 'margin squeeze test' were always waiting just round the corner to pounce.

      No wonder the only contenders were large corporations with better access to external funding. Even then Fujitsu knew it wouldn't make sense unless it could take the entire pot and when that didn't transpire they backed out. So BT ended up doing it all because, basically, only BT can. Will it be value for money - dunno. Possibly not. But at least it's being done. I'm reasonably sure this was the only way it was ever going to happen and at least BT are a known operator as opposed to Fujitsu. Better the devil you know.

      In hindsight - it would have been quicker to just give the money to BT and be done with it. The BDUK oversight and these committees might at least curb BT's worst behaviours.

    2. itzman

      Re: The UK government has completely screwed up...

      Royal Mail sale was forced by EU regulation IIRC.

      Nothing to do with the government. They merely rubber stamped the legislation already enacted in Brussels.

  7. Forget It

    > Local authorities are still contractually prevented from sharing information

    BT = mafia UK

  8. TheManCalledStan


    Never was any, nor could there be any really!

    Fujitsu premise was give the whole BDUK lot to us, which really doesn´t differ from BTs.

  9. Elmer Phud

    Politicians slag off politicians for getting it wrong?

    So, these people who were happy to see it all happen in front of them - and maybe even voted for it - are now not happy?

    Has competition not failed so much as not been the goose laying golden eggs after all. Were they expecting the same as the total dogs breakfast as cable TV where a fair bit of money was made very quickly followed by acquisitions and eventually a couple of top dogs?

    The early days of BB were a nightmare with so many companies after a quick buck but providing absolutely shit service . Modems that came out of Kinder Eggs or Cornflake packets then blaming BT for isssues (no Tiscali weren't the only ones), World plus dog complaining of drop-outs and slow speeds when a closer look at traffic showed constant up trafffic and very little down - spam city usually due to original AntiV subs running out.

    No-one wants to pay money to ensure (not even) remote places get decent speeds. Where's the quick profit in that? Best to moan at others instead.

    They ARE about to spunk millions and millions on applying more plasters on our crap roads though.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I don't think the problem is so much competition as openness. Along with some forceful contractual negotiation.

    In my rural area, a group of people started a project to lay fibre not just to my village but to all the farms and hamlets around. They worked out a business plan which basically meant they made enough money from the larger habitations (one small market town and a few large villages) to be able to fund the unprofitable isolated farms and hamlets.

    Then BT came in and decided that the market town would go on the list for fibre! That killed the business case for the local plan completely. And it has not even been possible to find out exactly what coverage BT are proposing (or even a date for it)!

    We need the government money to come with complete commercial openness about the project (coverage, costs, revenues, dates, etc -- if BT don't want to be open then they can choose not to take our money). And with a requirement that any money will come with a requirement to wire up every dwelling within a certain area (such as 15 miles around a town or something). And if BT don't want to do it on those terms but a local group do they should be able to get the money instead.

    1. All names Taken

      Re: Openness

      Hmmm ... People organising their own local broadband sounds just what the country (UK) needs.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Openness

      In 4 concise, easily understood, paragraphs you have described exactly why BDUK is a problem for rural communities, not the solution.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Openness

      "And with a requirement that any money will come with a requirement to wire up every dwelling within a certain area (such as 15 miles around a town or something). And if BT don't want to do it on those terms but a local group do they should be able to get the money instead."

      I think you've identified a large part of the problem.

      Only one in seven houses that are passed by FTTx broadband take it up. The cost of the kit and labour and all that to install fibre broadband to a house is about £2K. At £15 a month or whatever the average rental is these days, that's going to take more than a decade to pay back, and that's ignoring ongoing running costs. If you insist that every house passed is connected, that £2K is now £14K and still being paid for by the 1 in 7 houses paying £15 a month.

      From a market perspective - if fibre broadband was as important and life-changing as we're being told it would support a higher price in the market and take-up would be higher.

      That's why no-one else is investing, even with the offer of government cash to help with some of the capital costs. How would you ever make a return? Who would lend you the money? You'd make more money, more safely, by just sticking the cash in the bank. I think in some cases a local co-op, run on a not for profit basis, is the only likely way to succeed because no business would go anywhere near this.

      We've not managed, as a society, to extend sewers or mains gas out to very much of the rural population - and there's clearly a demand for those services in a much greater proportion of properties than 1 in 7. The only way to address market failure like this is for government to fund the infrastructure. Generally private businesses will make better use of those government funds because they have a financial incentive to increase productivity and reduce costs - that's not always true if a state enterprise were to take over.

      1. Dave Bell

        Re: Openness

        You're making an argument based on a misconception.

        The rural broadband schemes are based on the idea of fibre to the cabinet, not to every individual house.

        Fibre is digital. The modulated analogue signal over copper wire is the limiting factor. For me, the wire length drops by ¾, which is enough to notice. There's some wiggle-room from the cable routes between the exchange building and me. It could be a much bigger improvement. It could be a bit less.

        The exchange-to-cabinet leg will release a lot of copper, it'll carry all the lines, voice and data, on fibre. But the hardware in the cabinet will need more room. and will need power. Unless you want to have all the phones fail when the mains supply goes down, that means a connection to the exchange, with its battery back-up.

        It's hard to see how anyone can provide all this without a local hardware monopoly. And, after a lifetime of dealing with first the GPO. and then BT, and then with ISPs and alternative telcos, I'm left with the feeling that the industry is full of liars.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Openness

          The exchange-to-cabinet leg will release a lot of copper, it'll carry all the lines, voice and data, on fibre.

          Wrong-o. FTTC uses VDSL2 for the data back to the fibre cabinet. There, the MSAN splits the voice off from whence it is looped off to the original cab to carry its merry way back over the original copper. Only the data gets sent off over the fibre.

          Spend 30 seconds Googling, or look around the Kitz or Thinkbroadband sites and you'll soon find out how it works.

          1. Steven Jones

            Re: Openness

            Also the power backup for the FTTC cabinets is via internal batteries which are kept charged by the mains supply. They are sufficient to keep the broadband going for a few hours, but if the power is off for any longer, a portable generator will be required (which is, incidentally, how small telephone exchanges are powered if there's an extended outage).

            Note that if/when we see fibre to the remote node (or whatever people care to call it), the small "mini-dslams that will run either VDSL of G.Fast are likely to be powered over the (short) copper loop from the customer's premises, thereby avoiding the need for mains power.

        2. itzman

          Re: Openness

          ER fibre is no more and no less digital than the copper.

          It simply uses higher carrier frequencies in the optical band, rather than the RF band...

    4. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Openness @AC

      Know the feeling, I couldn't help but laugh at the sentence "The politicos recommended that the DCMS, which is headed up by Secretary of State Maria Miller, should work "urgently" with local councils to publish detailed mapping of their implementation plans. Searches should be made available down to full (7-digit) postcode level, they said."

      In my area, BT have just completed the installation of a new (empty) green cabinet. The Parish council know nothing (even though they would most probably have seen the planning application), the local council also know nothing and the local DCMS project team/co-ordinators know nothing, beyond my village being in the 2014/15 plan, and naturally BT themselves are releasing nothing...

      So I know that my village will be getting FTTC (I'm assuming BT wouldn't install an FTTC cabinet just for the fun of it), just no idea of when...

  11. n0r0imusha

    Rural, talk about central london

    I live in central london ( zone 2 ) and local ( 100m distance from the house as the crow flies ) exchange is enabled and upgraded for a year or more now. I still cannot get a "fibre optic" connection as the line is directly connected to the exchange and financially not viable to install a streetside cabinet. ( they have put a new cabinet in right next to the exchange as that area has virgin media so they want to compete there, but my street doesnt so no juicy profit to be taken away )

    tempted to start digging and putting down my own cable to the exchange, then ring the so they only need to connect it

    so talk about milking the system and monopoly

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Brian Morrison

        Re: You're an idiot.

        Does BT provide VDSL connections over exchange connected lines? I suspect they don't, which means a limit of 24Mbps from ADSL2+ instead of VDSL's limit of 80-odd Mbps.

        1. Steven Jones

          Re: You're an idiot.

          VDSL is not allowed over EO lines due to the ANFP, which is adminstered by the NICC. This sets power and frequency profiles which are designed to allow different services to co-exist by limiting cross-talk. The concern over running VDSL over EO lines is the possibility of conflict with ADSL (and, maybe a few other services which use carrier modulation). Similarly, you can't run ADSL from street cabinets.

          The NICC is effectively a trade body controlling the technical rules for use on BT's copper network.

          1. rhydian

            Re: You're an idiot.

            Thanks for the explanation Steven Jones. I could never get my head around why BT/Openreach just didn't treat the exchange as a cabinet for VDSL.

            1. Steven Jones

              Re: You're an idiot.

              Like most things in telecommunications, there's usually a reason why things are the way they are, and often it's historical. That applies to lots of old infrastructure - for instance, if we were building the railways now, they wouldn't have the bottle-necks and load gauge restrictions that have been inherited. To the simple-minded, it all seems so easy to rip it up and start again, but it's never that simple.

              Of all people, those involved in IT ought to know this. Any very large organisation will, over the years, have inherited a vast legacy of systems which is often not economic to just replace, and almost never possible to just change overnight. So it is with major bits of national infrastructure. Changes will tend to be evolutionary, not revolutionary. For long periods, old and new will co-exist

              If people want some idea of what the problems are with grand national telecommunication projects in western countries, I'd invite them to look at the (highly politicised) Australian National Broadband Network, which was originally planned to bring FTTP to 93% of Australian properties (so didn't cover the really remote areas). Estimated costs escalated to $73bn (AUS) with timescales disappearing over the horizon. Following a strategic review, this is meant to be coming down to a "mere" $41bn (AUS) using a mixture of FTTP and FTTC. Of course, even suburban Australia is less densely populated than the UK, but bear in mind there are only about 40% of the number of premises.

              So that approx £23bn for 10m properties rather puts the BDUK (and related) public broadband expenditure of about £1.4bn in perspective as it covers roughly the same number of premises in the intervention areas, and will deliver rather earlier.

        2. n0r0imusha

          Re: You're an idiot.

          Your are right, also they have stated to me that the VDSL equipment cannot be installed in the exchange , it has to be in a cabinet....

          bigger factor in a fibre connection is the upload speed difference

      2. AndrueC Silver badge

        Re: You're an idiot.

        If you're only 100m from the exchange, fibre-to-the-cabinet will make absolutely no difference what-so-ever.

        That depends what you mean. If you mean that ADSL2+ at 100m is no better than FTTC then you're wrong. It's most likely that such a line would run considerably faster were it upgraded to FTTC.

        However someone that close to the exchange might be on an EO line which means no cabinet in which case they won't be eligible for FTTC. BT have installed cabs in a few such places but by and large no-one really knows how EO lines are going to be dealt with.

      3. n0r0imusha

        Re: You're an idiot.

        my kind sir you are the idiot and quite uninformed.

        FTTC can provide 3-4 times download speed and about 10 times the upload compared to the best ADSL2+ Annex M ( 22Mbit down and 2Mbit up )

        Also they would need to sort out the mess of the cabling the have around here

        ( as a side note : the crow flies straight but my cable goes like a drunkard which means the cable length is about 500m )

    2. YetAnotherLocksmith

      Re: Rural, talk about central london

      But will that actually make any difference to your life? Going from 20Mbps to 80Mbps is like a pay rise from £165K a year to £200K - nice, but so what, really?

      Going from sub-1Mbps to 3Mbps is like going from £7K a year up to £20K - suddenly you really can get more out of life.

  12. This post has been deleted by its author

  13. rhydian

    Were Fujitsu ever really serious?

    I didn't manage to see what fujitsu's plans were, but I can't imagine they'd be much different to BT's, especially when you take in to account the fact that most of the backhaul would probably still have to be BT Sourced.

    Also, what was the situation regarding Fujitsu having to make the links available to other providers a la BT wholesale?

    1. Steven Jones

      Re: Were Fujitsu ever really serious?

      The BDUK framework required that the successful bidder had to provide a non-discriminatory wholesale services. Indeed, it would have been virtually impossible to have got anything else through EU state subsidy rules if ISPs were locked out. Of course, this means that the commercial case is poorer as the winner couldn't count on retail level revenue (and hence the gap funding is higher).

  14. Tom 7 Silver badge

    I've just been told by a little bird

    that our local exchange goes fibre to the cabinet this month but t seems anyone more than a mile away from the exchange will not be getting fibre to the cabinet. So those on 8 and 20 meg will be upgraded so they can watch 10 channels of shit TV more than they need but the likes of me 6 miles away will see no change.

    My provider says they couldn't afford the BT prices if they were fibering me up anyway.

    I'm going to see about some wireless point to point with some friends....

    What the fuck was all that taxpayers money wasted on?

    1. Steven Jones

      Re: I've just been told by a little bird

      I've no idea where the distance from the exchange comes into it. There are lots of cabinets in the country which have been enabled which are far more than 1 mile from the exhange (like the one I'm attached to). Of course, the further the cabinet is from the exchange, the more it costs to run the fibre to it, but what is probably far more important is how many properties can be usefully serviced from the cabinet. Of course, there may be particular obstacles - like the cost of running power, or blocked ducts, but these aren't directly associated with the distance from the exchange.

      Of course, if what you meant was the distance from the cabinet, then the speed available will be greatly reduced at 1 mile (or 1.6km) as the limit for the 24mbps BDUK threshold is at around 1.2km line length, but you can get useful speeds up to 2-2.5km from the cabinet.

      There are also trials being performed on fibre-to-the-remot-node. Basically a very small DSLAM up a pole which is connected by fibre to the exchange and which might be line powered (maybe from the customer premises, as it's perfectly feasible to provide a few watts over a few hundred metres, where it's not possible over km type distances). All experimental just at the moment.

      1. rhydian

        Re: I've just been told by a little bird

        I'd imagine its mainly down to how the lines were installed back in the day. Most rural exchanges I know of are around 80% direct exchange lines, especially once you leave the "core" of the town/village. That means that BT has to rewire its network to put cabinets in to these areas and get power supplies etc. to them. BT have been known to stick a new fibre cab just outside the exchange to deal with short direct exchange lines (you can usually tell by the fact its shiny, new and has cooling vents)

  15. Neil Harland

    The scene from the ground

    The situation in North Yorkshire is that several people were asked to create a steering group to oversee the rollout of broadband to our remote area. We gave up our time for free and now we find that the money (which was earmarked for getting broadband to hard to reach areas), has been used to upgrade 'fast' cabinets in market towns to 'superfast cabinets'. We, on the other hand, must wait for funding plus the correct testing and operation of fibre to the node, wireless, or satellite (Yeah right)

    Margaret Hodge is right to give these people a grilling as they have used the money to tick the easiest boxes, (Some market towns are classed as 'rural').

    Tell me why should I give up my time for nothing when they roll over us like this?

    Considering all the other stuff we are losing in the countryside due to 'efficiency savings', (public transport, post offices, schools, healthcare services, to name a few), I think it's time all utilities should be re-privatised as Thatcher's free market experiment does not work for us.

    1. Terry Barnes

      Re: The scene from the ground

      " I think it's time all utilities should be re-privatised as Thatcher's free market experiment does not work for us."

      They'd become less efficient and would cost more - the difference being I guess that your service would be subsidised by the tax bills of city dwellers who cost much less to provide with utility service.

      There are more city dwellers than rural dwellers and so I'm not sure a democratic vote would deliver the change you want. Equally, rural areas tend to return MPs for Team Blue and your proposal doesn't tend to fit with their world view.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unfair Competition

    There could have been competition IF the original tender had allowed small startup providers to tender. Only BT and the stalking horse Fujitsu were big enough to meet the criteria.

    Oxfordshire has a credible provider, Gigaclear, who have succesfully delivered FTTP to a number of villages who weren't on BT's roadmap. They could not tender for BDUK as they weren't big enough, although have recently won a RCBF tender. The village where I live is on the BDUK BT/Oxfordshire CC's "roadmap". BT/OCC will NOT release detailed plans on who will and will not get Infinity. All we know is that about 1/3 of the village is on EO lines, so won't qualify, plus many properties are likely to fall outside the sensible range for FTTC. FTTC I see as a last ditch attempt to get faster service over aging copper.

    So we are in the difficult scenario of not knowing who will get FTTC and who will stay on ADSL and WHEN it is going to happen. Of course with FTTC you never know what speed you are going to get until it is installed and tested. FTTC can be really challenging due to distance in rural communities. We would like to get the FTTP solution from Gigaclear, but the impenetrable fog from BT/OCC means that many people are sitting on the fence.

    The whole situation is a complete shambles...

  17. Bluenose

    BT must be loving this deal

    I live in a small village of about 400 houses and businesses. Our local Duke has fibre to the premises which he paid for (lucky him, inherited wealth is so useful) while the rest of us are stuck with a maximum speed of 3mbps before the everyone finds out and piles on at which point it starts to fall (rapidly) to less than 2mbps. However because BT can provide upto 2mbps to the village we have been carved out of the local broadband plan.

    Our local council sought out lots of ideas and feedback for their local superfast broadband plan a couple of years ago. I happily said I would pay up to £30 per month for fast (not even super) BB. Now they have published the plan and oh my all those small market towns of a couple of thousand properties and more being built every day are all due to get the upgrade. The fact that Virgin also has fibre in those towns can't have anything to do with it I suppose (ROFL).

    Our village is further away from its exchange than it is from a small nearby town that has superfast broadband with FTTC. The cost of laying in some fibre from that exchange to the village and the green cabinets we have here should be fairly cheap but no, the local plan which is a partnership with two biggish towns means that we get bugger all. The two biggish towns are subsidising BT to install broadband in areas where there is already a reasonably strong economic argument to do the work anyway.

    BT are telling the customer want they can have and ignoring what the customer wants/needs. Such an approach is OK where the customer budget is insufficient to provide what they want/need but in this instance it is wrong. Local councils should be prioritising those places they know BT cannot install to without a subsidy and BT should be paying in the more economic locations. But as usual councils are scared BT will walk away if they exercise their rights.

  18. jellypappa

    BT inherited it's infrastructure

    the infrastructure was allways BT's just under their old business name.

  19. Smoking Gun

    I'm interested in the forums response to the suggesting of using satellite broadband. It seems excessive and expensive to run fibre across the rural Britain when satellite services seem to now be relatively affordable and provide good speeds. I know latency can be issue which may make VPN's tricky so cause problems for businesses, but maybe it's part of the solution for home users?

    1. rhydian

      The Welsh Government offered grants to those who couldn't get broadband any other way to go over to satellite. The main feedback I get from them and from those using satellite for events etc is:

      1: Its "slow" i.e. the latency is absolutely mental compared to ADSL so the connection seems slower to the average user and can cause issues with Skype/Video chat etc.

      2: The download limits are still low/expensive compared to ADSL. The grants only covered the purchasing, rather than the running costs.

      I have heard reports of some users going back to dialup as even though its slow, the latency was at least manageable.

      In conclusion: Satellite is brilliant if you can't get anything at all, but pants compared to even 4 meg ADSL

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yep, you've summarised the satellite broadband issue to a "T". It's latency. Not speed. And for many applications running over IP, latency is crucial - sometimes even more so than speed (try running MS Access against a MS JET database over a 100Mpbs WAN even with 15-20mS latency) Geosynchronous orbit is approx 22,236 miles above mean sea level. As the speed of light in free space is 186,000 miles per second, the round-trip time with 0 additional latency will be (4*22236)/186000 = 470mS. Probably a trifle sub-optimal for gaming....

        A quick google suggest that the UK providers are indeed using Geosync satellites as Avonline offer "Freesat and Sky using our dish" and another provider shows dishes on their demo vehicles.

        You'd need a constellation of LEO satellites to improve on that which, unsurprisingly, look a bit beyond home broadband pricing - the Iridium Pilot is "Only £3,499+VAT " and data is $9.45/MB after $240 activation (other plans with inclusive data available)

        1. YetAnotherLocksmith

          Hopefully we will be able to invade some 3rd world country and steal their wifi broadband airships.

          Seriously, how come the 3rd world has a bigger brighter plan than the UK for getting high speed internet to the remote masses?

    2. itzman

      Re Satellite

      You try fighting monsters in virtual reality with a 300ms delay...and getting killed every time the leaves blow across the line of sight...

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    don't rock the boat

    seats on the board for pols and civil servants.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wireless has been done, search in google on humble wireless

    Wireless infrastructure has successfully been done.

    A point to point wireless high frequency link between a provider and local community base station and a wireless distribution system within the community.

    Faster and more reliable than adsl2.


    BT does not like this at all and will do anything to detail such projects! In Humbie BT distributed local made leaflets belitteling the community wireless offer. So not only do they have monopoly , the also are not afraid of using bullying tactics.

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