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Anti-Roadworks To Affect Broadband
By: MarkJ - 22 August, 2003 (8:40 AM)

Broadband Internet access technologies that require roadwork, such as NTL and Telewest’s cable-modem service, could suffer as a result of the new anti-roadwork’s bill:

As long-time readers will be aware, the Government has been considering a number of measures that can be passed off as immediate and effective action aimed at congestion, to allow it to reclaim the initiative on roads policy. They are in fact a perfect example of short-termism in policy development which could have a devastating impact on the roll-out of broadband across the UK.

Details are still sketchy, but the measures are likely to include powers that require utilities to resurface the whole or half of any road where they've worked, lay multiple ducts when conducting works which will then be the property of the local authority to sell on to the highest bidder, pay higher penalty fines, not conduct works if other utilities have recently done so in the same area, and report to 'traffic managers' who will be able to enforce the co-ordination of works. These measures are expected to be introduced as a slimmed-down enabling bill, the Traffic Management Bill, in November with a target enactment date of April 2004.

The potentially negative effect on Broadband Britain can't be overstated, as these measures are likely to drive up the price of broadband access, block new network roll-out and customer connections, and distort the market. Since BT has a more extensive network than any other operator, the effect on it will be much less severe and would effectively work in its favour by restricting the ability of competitors to catch up. The measures would also ensure that overseas investment shrinks, and the disadvantage that rural and socially deprived areas already have in terms of broadband connections would be more difficult to overcome, since it would only be viable to dig in areas of maximum return on investment.

It'd be interesting to hear what NTL and Telewest have to say about this, although BT should remain largely unaffected. More @ New Media Zero.

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