BT Openreach and freeloading users of their infrastructure

Right, I am taking my life in my hands here in a defence of Openreach as there are some out-there for whom OpenReach and BT can do no right – but here goes.

Actually, what I will write is not so much a defence of BT OpenReach as trying to add a little bit of perspective. I am prompted to do this by today’s report from OFCOM, which I hasten to add I have not read – having only read their headlines.

I heard on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme some vox-pops where we had people complaining about the inadequacy of their Broadband service; with it ‘taking too long to down load movies’, and a housing estate which was built 20 years ago but doesn’t have a high enough broadband speed.

Well, did the supplier of the movie via broadband service invest in the necessary broadband infrastructure to make downloading of their service possible, or did they just free-load on the infrastructure which was already in place? Did the supplier of the movie down-load service structure itself so that it pays as little UK tax as possible (some of which could be invested into better infrastructure if the ‘market’ wouldn’t do it)?

Why didn’t the developer put in broadband infrastructure when they built the housing estate, or were they hoping that someone else would do so for free? Some may say that this was 20 years ago and the developer couldn’t be expected to put in this sort of infrastructure, but I don’t accept this argument: the need for this sort of infrastructure was foreseeable 20 years ago – they just didn’t want to pay for it. In addition, we are still getting this now – new developments which are not being fitted with Fibre-to-the-Home from day one.

It seems to me that ‘we’ are expecting Openreach to act like a public service whilst forgetting that the masterplan was to take BT out of being a public service and turning into in a private company who’s role is to make money for its shareholders, not to be a public-service utility

I am pleased that OFCOM are ‘encouraging’ the other broadband providers to build out their own first or last mile networks – and it is going to be interesting to see how many of them are willing to risk investments which require a 20 year pay back period (and indeed share their infrastructure with micro-providers of broadband services).

Rant over.

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