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Ofcom Comments On Next-Gen Broadband

Posted: 16th Apr, 2007 By: MarkJ
Since it's related to the news item below, we felt that the following comment by Ofcom's chief executive, Ed Richards, might be of interest. It was made as part of a longer interview with the Ofcomwatch blog:

Just to pick up on the theme of public money in communications. Lets talk about publicly funded access schemes. People have suggested that public money will be required if are to have an alternative next generation access network. Do you have any view on those sorts of opinions?

Well, I am not persuaded that it is. And it certainly shouldn't be for large parts of the country.

Let me answer this by analogy - when broadband started in this country people said to me at the time "we have to have broadband all over the country it will never be provided for by the market, the market might go to 60 per cent but there'll have to be government funding for the rest.' Remember that? That's what they used to say. Lots of people - the Broadband Stakeholders Group - lots of people.

And I remember saying in response, "well let's just wait and see shall we, wait and see if there really is a problem.' What level of coverage do we have for broadband now? 99.6 per cent! How much public money was necessary to do that? Zero! Would it have been a waste of taxpayers money to spend it on supporting rollout? Yes! Next generation is the same in my view. It may well be that in due course we feel that a public subsidy ends up being necessary some years down the line but its definitely not where you start.

I would not be surprised if it turned out that we didn't need any subsidy and the bulk of next generation access was done by the market in exactly the same way that current generation broadband evolved.

It's worth pointing out that while ADSL could run over existing infrastructure, future next-generation networks may require greater physical development. Typically there’s no guarantee that fibre (FTTx) would become an absolute.
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