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House of Lords UK Superfast Broadband Inquiry Publishes Written Evidence

Wednesday, Apr 18th, 2012 (2:16 pm) - Score 1,361

The House of Lords Select Committee Inquiry into the UK governments superfast broadband strategy, which launched in mid-February 2012 (here) and closed for responses on 13th March 2012, has now published a full summary of all the written evidence submitted.

At present the coalition government aims for 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), which is supported by less than £1bn of public subsidy from central government (local councils and the private sector are expected to match this with extra also coming from the EU).

Superfast Broadband Inquiry – Written evidence (PDF)
http://www.parliament.uk/documents/lords-committees/communications/Superfastbroadband/SuperfastBroadbandEvidence.pdf

Sadly there are far too many responses for an easy summary of the 385 page long document and in any case most will be more interested in the Inquiry’s eventual conclusions, which are still pending but should follow in due course. So here are a few choice quotes from the various reply’s.

Quote from BT’s Written Evidence (Page 51)

It is impossible to give a specific answer to the question: what broadband speeds are required now? The private sector is having to promote the advantages of speeds above 24 Mbps while at the same time ensuring networks can run speeds of 80-100 Mbps and faster, in order to future-proof the UK’s broadband services. It is worth noting that in markets such as Singapore, Scandinavia and Japan, the actual take-up by customers of high speed services has been slow to materialise and is typically around 20% of users. It is also worth highlighting that larger businesses tend to have their own dedicated private circuits, delivering high speeds to match their requirements.

Quote from Fujitsu’s Written Evidence (Page 176)

The access solution for superfast broadband should not be limited to one infrastructure to provide the service. There should be no regulatory barriers or protection of existing access network providers that prevent services being introduced over all the existing infrastructures.

Quote from Ofcom’s Written Evidence (Page 291)

Ofcom has agreed that it will identify and collate the best data available from European countries in order to compile this scorecard [for checking against BDUK’s target]. This data will draw on those collected by the European Commission, the OECD and other agencies. Wherever possible we will use data that is in the public domain; however, in order to have the most robust and up-to-date data it may be necessary to conduct specific data collection or commission specific research. We plan to publish the first dataset in summer 2012, alongside the next update of the Broadband Communications Infrastructure Report.

Quote from TalkTalk’s Written Evidence (Page 341)

In an ideal world there would be competition at the network level since this would drive the most effective competition and innovation. It would also help BDUK ensure value for money. However the potential for competition at the network level is limited as the economics cannot support multiple networks. This is compounded by the difficulty that alternative fibre investors face in getting fair access to BT’s ducts and sub-loops to allow them to compete on an equal footing. Government and Ofcom intervention has been helpful in driving down wholesale prices but overall improvements are slow (for example, the process of getting access remains expensive and highly manual). Widespread competition at the network level is therefore unlikely in the medium term.

Given this, it is absolutely critical that BT provide an effective wholesale product to allow other ISPs to offer competing retail services. Though BT do offer a wholesale product (known as GEA) it is not yet working. Nothing demonstrates this more effectively than the fact that only BT itself is able to proactively market fibre services. It is now over two years since GEA was launched yet ISP competitors currently account for just 1% of the connections on the BT Openreach fibre network. This is compared to the legacy copper network where alternative ISPs account for over 60% of connections. This is the result of the lack of effective wholesale regulation.

Sadly such inquiries aren’t likely to impact the current strategy but could potentially influence the post-2015 policy, which has yet to be decided. The inquiry itself has already noted that “consumer demand for bandwidth is growing by around 60% a year” and predicts that broadband download speeds of 1Gbps (Gigabits per second) “may be needed” by 2020.

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Lords Select Committee (Communications) – Superfast Broadband Inquiry
http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/lords-select/…

Mark-Jackson
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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