Government demands sewer access for fast broadband

Utilities and telecoms firms could be forced to allow access to their infrastructure for high-speed broadband deployment under new plans from the Government.

Government demands sewer access for fast broadband

Conservative MP Jeremy Hunt, the new Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, said his Government agrees with Ofcom that BT’s ducts should be opened up to rivals, but believes it shouldn’t stop there.

Hunt said that digging up roads to lay cable is one of the biggest costs of rolling out broadband, noting some companies have already had success running broadband through sewers or via telegraph poles.

Within this parliament we want Britain to have the best superfast broadband network in Europe.

“That’s why I want companies to be able to take advantage of the infrastructure that already exists – the ducts and poles of telecoms companies, the sewers and other utility networks,” he said in a speech in London today.

If necessary, Hunt said the Government would put access to such infrastructure into law.

Broadband speeds and rural coverage

While he “warmly welcomed” BT’s £1 billion investment into extending broadband coverage and called Virgin Media’s 200Mbits/sec trials a “positive step”, Hunt said “there has to be a role for Government as well as the market.”

Hunt said the current UK plan of 2Mbits/sec should be seen as the “very minimum” level of access, with the Government aiming higher. “Our goal is simple: within this parliament we want Britain to have the best superfast broadband network in Europe.”

“It is a scandal that nearly three million households in this country still cannot access 2Mbits/sec broadband speeds, and less than 1% of the country is able to access the internet using modern fibre optic technology – compared to an OECD average of around 10%,” he said.

He confirmed that funds from the BBC licence fee for digital switchover would be used to increase coverage in rural areas, adding that the government will unveil details of three new projects to increase rural coverage on 15 July.

Fast broadband is necessary

Hunt said “our regulatory structure has been left long out of date by changes in technology.” He added that some people question whether fast broadband is necessary, “when the iPlayer can manage on less than 1Mbits/sec.”

“They are missing the point,” he said. “Superfast broadband is not simply about doing the same things faster. It’s about doing totally new things – creating a platform on which a whole generation of new businesses can thrive.”

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