‘Rocket Speed” fibre broadband for the UK! Really?

Mar 26, 2021

Is ‘rocket speed’ fibre broadband really about to be delivered ‘like fury’ in the West Country?

Last week BT announced that they were going to build the UK’s full fibre internet infrastructure ‘like fury’ due to changes in OFCOMs stance, and that this would result in them starting to provide superfast fibre to 20 million properties by the mid 2020s, meaning we could all benefit from superfast broadband connections. The Government say it’s going to be ‘rocket speed’.

Great news you’d think. Well perhaps not so good as it may at first seem.

BT is already in the middle of a countrywide fibre upgrade, due for completion in 2025, a key part of which was the provision of superfast broadband to 99% of homes and businesses, with every property in the UK entitled to at least 10Mbps broadband.

So, what has changed?

A couple of key items have been slid under the carpet.  

The Government has dropped their own stated promise from 100% of homes to 85% of homes, with the final 1% now being regarded as not being financially viable for supplying with fibre. So, there’s a good chance that if you are in a rural area, currently with poor provision that may well continue into the next decade!

Also Ofcom has decided not to impose price caps on full-fibre connections provided by BT Openreach  which leaves it open for BT to charge higher prices, hence making the roll out more viable for BT, but probably more expensive for all of us.

Fortunately, OFCOM has insisted that BT will not be allowed to apply geographical pricing, so this means that the price for the service in rural areas with less demand and higher infrastructure investment must be the same as in cities where the cost of delivery is lower and size of market greater.

If you are lucky then you may be able to access services from an alternative provider, such as Jurassic Fibre or City fibre but critically for the West Country the government believes that some 30% of the UK will have no alternative to BT and it doesn’t take much business understanding to expect choice to be greatest in cities, but unavailable in rural communities.

There are alternatives to copper or fibre for rural areas, such as mobile network 4G, Point to point wireless through suppliers such as Airband or Gigaclear, or satellite, but these are often more expensive and services such as satellite can have problems with latency.

The good news is that 70-85% of us should be benefiting from true fibre into our homes and businesses by the middle of this decade but in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset some 400,000 people could still be without fibre at the end of the decade, and that has serious implications on home working, student learning and the rural economy.

So BT’s news is a re-hash of old plans, which have been watered down and dressed up as new investment and which benefit some, but which in reality puts back the installation of fibre broadband for a significant proportion of us. Pity.

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