BT ‘using government subsidy to compete’

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Action needed to ensure that BT doesn’t enter areas where broadband infrastructure already being put in place

BT is “using government subsidy to compete” in areas where fibre broadband infrastructure is already in place, it has been claimed.

This is according to the managing director of a company that helps smaller ISPs to pool their resources to offer broadband in poorly served areas.

Fluidata managing director Piers Daniell told Mobile News that regulation is required to ensure BT’s fibre broadband rollout, which receives public subsidies, doesn’t restrict competition from smaller ISPs.

He was speaking after his firm won a Queens Award for Enterprise for its Service Exchange Platform, which currently helps to connect 20,000 homes to broadband.

It aggregates a range of fibre, satellite and wireless infrastructure in areas that BT is not present in to offer a broadband service. The infrastructure is put in place by pension funds and companies such as Independent Fibre Networks Ltd., which are willing to take a long-term view on the investment before it sees a return. Issues allegedly arise when BT begins placing infrastructure where it already exists.

The ambition for the firm is to act as a “national grid” for smaller ISPs to provide services to areas that aren’t served by BT Openreach. However, Daniell says action is needed to ensure that when BT says it will not build a network infrastructure somewhere it keeps its word.

“One of the big challenges is overbuild – BT say they are not going to go somewhere, so someone gets funding to build the network and then BT turns up,” he said.

“They are using government subsidy to compete against people that are already there. It’s a flawed concept to think our model (shared access) doesn’t work for a huge proportion of the area that isn’t covered by fibre.”

BT said: “Public funds are only made available to supply areas which have been identified by the public sector through stakeholder consultation as ones where no private sector investment has been made or is planned in the next three years.”

It added: “Providers who are serious about investing in a particular area should tell the public sector about their plans during the consultation period so that unserved areas can be correctly identified.”

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