Government broadband speed targets slammed

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FSB says 45,000 businesses are still on dial-up and calls on government to do more

Network and cloud infrastructure provider Exponential-e has hit out at the government’s target of every business receiving minimum broadband speeds of 10Mbps by 2018/19.

The firm, which runs its own “carrier-class” 100GB ethernet network, claims it was building 100Mbps circuits in 2006 and suggested that the government didn’t want to embarrass incumbent operators by stipulating higher targets.

The £1.2 billion Broadband Delivery UK project aims to cover 90 per cent of the country with superfast fibre broadband (25Mbps plus) by 2015.

Connectivity

It also wants to make sure every company has access to normal broadband with minimum speeds of 2Mbps. Funding to bring the connectivity to local areas also comes from local government, the EU and a smaller sum from the network that wins the contract.

In April this year, the government said the rollout had reached 370,000 homes and premises which weren’t covered as part of BT or Virgin’s commercial rollout by the end of February.

So far, BT has won every contract to build the infrastructure except for one to supply the parish of Northmoor, in Oxfordshire.

This was won by rural provider Gigaclear, but there has been criticism from smaller providers that the tender process for bids means it is impossible for them to win contracts.

Lead technologist for Exponential-e Steven Harrison was speaking after the Federation of Small Businesses released research that says 45,000 businesses are still on dial-up connections, while “many more” are receiving speeds of less than 2Mbps.

He even suggested that the government should consider building fibre networks under the public sector, mirroring similar moves in Australia and New Zealand, and claimed that the government didn’t want to upset the applecart.

“It does smell of lobbying to be frank – the government not wanting to extend themselves into a position that would make several of the incumbents look bad because they have not been investing in their network to deliver the kind of next-generation service that the consumers want,” he told Mobile News.

National commitment

“What the Australian and New Zealand governments say is ‘We don’t run multiple power lines to every home’, so why are we relying on the private sector to run that [broadband rollout].

“Why don’t we just take that on, kick the private sector out of it and make that part of our national commitment to infrastructure.

“That’s not to say they should be taking ownership of it, but they really should be doing a little bit more leading from the front. The commitment should be delivering a minimum of fibre, not 10Mbps. Whatever the person commits to over that network is their choice; 10Mbps is fine but to say that you can’t get anything faster, you’re telling that business that ultimately this is what we have in the UK – you’re telling them you may not live here.”

Cherry-picking

He also hit out what he saw as the lack of regulation around where operators build fibre networks, saying the government wasn’t doing enough to stop them cherry- picking the most lucrative sites.

“They’re going to build in the areas which are cheap and easy to build and ignore the other areas. There needs to be some sort of framework where those areas are not ignored.”

The Department of Culture Media and Sport said in reality, the majority of homes and businesses will receive a minimum of 24Mbps but many will be much higher.

He also said that accusations the government wasn’t doing enough to get carriers to rollout in areas that aren’t commercially viable were not true, adding that the BDUK project was Whitehall “stepping in to make them commercially viable”.

BT declined to comment.

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