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Former BT CTO Tells Inquiry the UK Needs £15bn to do Broadband Properly

Wednesday, Mar 21st, 2012 (8:16 am) - Score 819

The former Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of BT, Dr Peter Cochrane, has told a Lords Select Committee Inquiry into the UK governments superfast broadband strategy that the country would need to invest “at least £15bn” if it wanted to upgrade the national telecoms infrastructure properly and deliver a truly fibre optic (e.g. FTTH) service to everybody.

The House of Lords Select Committee on Communications Inquiry, which is being chaired by Lord Inglewood (Conservative), was launched last month to examine the current strategy. At present the coalition government wants 90% of people in the UK to be within reach of a superfast broadband (24Mbps+) service by 2015 and for us to have “the best superfast broadband network in Europe” (scored on more than just speed).

But Cochrane, now an independent consultant, suggested that the country’s current plans were “Super slow. It’s a candle, while the rest of the world is using the light bulb,” he said.

Dr Peter Cochrane said (The Guardian):

In terms of broadband, the UK is at the back of the pack. We’re beat by almost every other European country and Asia leaves us for dust. The great decline in our relative global position has saddened me over the years and we need to invest at least £15bn to redress this now.”

At present the government plans an investment of under £1bn (£530m core funding + £100m Urban Broadband Fund and possibly £300m from the BBC after 2015) into fixed line broadband ISP connectivity (not counting EU money and existing Private Sector projects, such as BT’s £2.5bn rollout), which is to be matched by local authorities and then the private sector.

But Cochrane envisages his proposal of £15bn as being able to deliver 100Mbps+ fibre optic broadband speeds to almost everybody in the country, which is something that national telecoms operators may have to play catch-up with in the future anyway. The inquiry itself notes that “consumer demand for bandwidth is growing by around 60% a year” and expects connection speeds of 1Gbps (Gigabits per second) to “be needed” by 2020.

Cochrane also wants to see the market made more competitive through better regulation (e.g. encouraging truly unbundled fibre optic lines) and greater support for alternative network operators (ISP), which many view as being shunned by current government policy that appears to favour BT. In reality this inquiry, which is largely chaired by pro-government peers, isn’t likely to change the current strategy but it might influence the post-2015 policy that has yet to be set in stone.

Lords Select Committee (Communications) – Superfast Broadband Inquiry

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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