Further pronouncements on the eventual roll out of 'Super-Fast' 40-100Mb broadband to every home in the land were made by both major this week. As the UK heads relentlessly towards a General Election in the Spring, both government and opposition have alighted on this 'utility' as a vote winner / chance to bash the other.
BT said it was impossible to get more than 80% of the country on broadband, then in January this year the Digital Britain report said we were all going to get Fast broadband @ 2Mb in 2012, (I can't even get 500kb to my house) Now we're all going to have Super Fast by 2017 (well 90% by 2017 and 100% by 2020)
Well that's pretty good - except that the BT Infinity Service that this relies on is targeting 40% coverage (ie Cities and Metropolitan area) by 2012, and BT's record on delivering things like the 21CN all IP network is pretty poor, so if left to BT it will all be to slow, to late!
In an attempt to speed up the process and with an eye to improved competition the Conservatives are suggesting that BT opens up not just it's exchanges but all of it's trunking and conduits to the likes of Virgin Media, even suggestions now that the NTL Fibre at the top of the village could be broken out and strung from the old GPO telephone pole outside the house.
However the question of funding will almost certainly kill it the 50p tax on landlines is already getting push back and will certainly be an election issue, and the Conservative suggestion of top slicing the BBCs budget by £120m is frankly widdling into the wind, we're talking billions to deliver on any of these promises and no company can afford to raise the amount of long-term debt that would be required.
On the upside opening up the BT trunks would make it easier to run business servics around th Cities which would certainly help and would reduce the number of new digs and roadworks in places like London.
I think the solution is a mixture of public and private investment, with which ever party wins taking the same approach as the Dutch "we will invest in this network and you the service providers can lease the resulting infrastructure from us" If you would like to invest alongside us and own a percentage of the income you're welcome to pitch in"