This is NOT a party political broadcast

So we have heard the budget, and to be honest, there are few surprises for us telco’s. We all knew that this would be an ideal opportunity for Labour to posture somewhat prior to the election to gain votes. And that is exactly what they’ve done.

The one thing for me personally that has been interesting is both parties use of the advancement of broadband in their respective manifestos. The Tories have confidently stated that they will get 100Mbps lines to 90% of the population by 2017. Last year Labour confidently announced that their USC for #digitalbritain would be a paltry 2Mbps per household. This has been subsquently revised to providing ‘superfast’ broadband by 2020. However despite elaborate methods of financing this from each, there doesn’t seem to have been much thought as to how this would be delivered, and more importantly, who will deliver this.

Fibre is and has been the obvious method. Much noise has been made for both BT and Virgin Media to provide access to their ducts for other carriers use. However when the purported cost to deliver fibre to each and every premises is between £5bn and £30bn you can see the massive investment needed. Hence the government’s involvment. Many different technologies have been considered to deliver ‘next generation services’ today. Satellite, LTE, WiMAX and even BPL (that’s an acronym for Broadband over Powerlines) have been mooted as being able to service those much talked about not-spots, that are rightfully threatening the validity of the #digitalbritain manifesto.  The disappointing factor is that there seems to be little communication with telco’s to understand how best to deploy services that will help Britain move into a digital future.

In my view, there are 2 key issues that stop any government really moving forward with providing high speed universal access.

  1. Lack of communication with those in the trenches – I’m sure the likes of BT and Virgin Media have been consulted about their opinions on providing high speed access to all (or badgered to open up their ducts). However what the government hasn’t done is try to assist smaller providers who have worked in other more rural areas to try and deploy networks designed for tomorrow. An example of this can be found by the inequality in the tax rates paid out on fibre by the likes of BT and smaller providers, such as Vtesse. If there is at least parity, then this will spur people like Vtesse to create efficient models to provide high speed access in areas the not-spots.
  2. The government inherently doesn’t GET the internet – This is a massive statement to make. However on one hand the government is trying to deploy a set of foundations to provide universal access, whilst on the other, introducing the Digital Economy Bill to massively restrict our use of the internet. Ever so slightly hypocritical. The government seems hell bent on protecting the revenues of industries who also don’t get the internet, instead of helping them to adopt new business models to fully embrace the internet.

Once the government realise that providing universal access is less of a political game  whilst engaging with those who could spur innovation, then will we truly see a landscape conducive to providing nationwide high speed access to underpin a digitally thriving economy.

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