BT accused of gazumping rural broadband projects
BT has been accused of riding roughshod over rural broadband projects.
The telco has announced plans to deliver fibre broadband to two thirds of the country by 2015, but has yet to reveal the majority of exchanges it plans to reach with its super-fast broadband rollout.
Rural broadband campaigners have accused the “monopolistic” telco of muscling in on local projects, by rolling out high-speed broadband in areas that have already been serviced by small-scale local rollouts. By sweeping in after local projects, BT allegedly damages investments and undermines confidence in future regional projects.
The problem is we are still dealing with an incumbent monopoly and it does often behave in a monopolistic way
“We’ve experienced problems and concerns with BT coming into the marketplace and taking over projects,” said Dr Charles Trotman, head of rural business development at the Country Land & Business Association, speaking at a Westminster eForum in London this morning.
He was backed by a Government-funded body tasked with supporting rural broadband projects. “The problem is we are still dealing with an incumbent monopoly and it does often behave in a monopolistic way,” said Malcolm Corbett, chief executive officer of the Independent Networks Co-Operative Association (INCA).
Corbett claimed that even when BT does co-operate with local projects, it often did so on unreasonable terms. He cited the example of a local provider who wanted to run fibre over BT’s telegraph poles, in which the contract gave BT the right to terminate access at 90 days’ notice and take up to 21 days to repair problems with the lines.
BT denied it was acting unfairly. The company’s director of group strategy, policy and portfolio, Liv Garfield, said that when BT arrived in an area after a local project it was a case of “may the best man win”.
She added that the company needed to safeguard its shareholders’ investment in its nationwide fibre rollout. “There’s not a queue of people waiting to offer £2.5 billion of investment in the UK [broadband network],” she said.