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There is another option to BT

3 · OCT ·2012

As a company who has keen interest in BDUK developments, via our involvement (alongside Magdalene and NetAdmin) in finding alternative rural and urban broadband solutions – our Service Exchange Platform (SEP), it was intriguing to read the comments of Rob Gallagher (The Director of Informa Telecoms & Media’s Global Broadband and TV Research) explaining why ‘UK Cities Must Pick BT for Superfast Broadband or Risk Failure’ in last week’s ISPreview. As a headline argument it won’t sit very easily with the EU’s view on how public money should be assigned for these deployments, with the commission over in Brussels favouring a model “ that both incentivises further investment in fibre broadband and delivers vibrant competition in broadband services” i.e. opposing any monopoly. I’m the first to the criticise the EU when I feel they needlessly meddle in our affairs, however I understand their approach on this subject, notwithstanding the ethical implications of monopoly, without competition we run the risk of compromising both choice of service and service delivery. And are BT always best placed to deliver? On privately funded projects competitors have often built better performing networks, on smaller budgets, and in quicker time, than BT might have done. In respect to some of the rural projects undertaken in the last few years, companies like Rutland and B4RN have also proved themselves more than capable and in doing so have highlighted the value of local providers in solving rural broadband problems. In short there are several  more innovative, agile and efficient providers than BT. I’m sure Gallagher’s is aware of the merits of alternative providers, he says as much by noting that they are likely “to bid with more flexibility in speeds, costs and other features than BT”, the foundations of his argument rest more on the fact that “many alternative superfast broadband network operators elsewhere in the world have struggled to attract major service providers, which see working with these outfits as an unnecessary source of cost and complexity compared to working with incumbents like BT.” The point Gallagher makes here is a salient one, yet I think the success of not just these future developments, but the very future of our industry rest on us rejecting the conclusion that we should resign ourselves to a BT monopoly. Would it not be better to work on attempting to remove, or at least lessen, in Gallagher’s words ‘cost and complexity’ of working with these outfits? In my view that should be the aim of network carriers, ISP’s, infrastructures partners, the BDUK and the government. That’s what we should collectively strive for. Allow alternative provider’s access to lease BT’s dark fibre networks, place trust in smaller local providers, work on intelligent platforms that make open access to all these networks easier. Fluidata are attempting do just this with the Service Exchange Platform that allows ISP’s to make just one investment and have access to all these disparate networks. The platform is mature, the cost and complications minimal. There are alternatives. Our campaign is called stop@nothing and we plan to do just that in helping play our part in not only bringing Britain’s connectivity infrastructure in line with the rest of world, but in eschewing monopoly and encouraging competition. We don’t agree with Rob Gallagher’s conclusion. We just hope that the rest of our industry and those in positions of power in councils, central government and the EU share our views.

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Posted by Sanita Karra