As regular listeners will know I have been banging on about telecoms a bit, so I finally got round to sending the below letter to my MP. I have redacted my address as I don't trust the interweb :-)
Letter as here, the only area that may not make sense to non telecoms people is the reference to SIN 359, which is an obligation on BT to provide a working line to any residence in the UK that wants it (with some exceptions, but this would get very long winded). The key point is that it only refers to voice, as in making and receiving calls. Despite what many people think there is no obligation on BT (or anyone) to provide a broadband service. In regulation terms broadband is viewed the same as 1471 or voicemail, meaning that if you can't get broadband, the ultimate answer is either "tough" or "get the government to pay for it" of which neither option seems right to me?
Anyway, here you go -
Dear Mr Liddington
I am writing to you today as a constituent with some specific questions for you and some of your colleagues around provision of broadband services where I live, but this is linked to some wider questions about funding of BT and their non-provision of suitable services.
For clarity I will use the term “BT” to mean the BT Group, I am fully aware of the internal organisation structure for Openreach, Wholesale and Retail but as there is only one listed company on the Stock Market it is one entity. I am also discounting Virgin Media from any points here as they are no longer cabling anywhere as far as I can ascertain so their services are limited and restricted to existing geographic areas.
It is hard to find a week where there is not a story in the news about more funding being given to BT to roll out broadband and high speed internet access to rural areas over the whole of the UK. As BT are the only player involved here I have concerns as to how and why this money is being given. BT are responsible and own the infrastructure on which the fixed line telecoms and broadband services are run. BT is a hugely profitable company that is now appearing to rely on state funding to deliver its core business to residences in the UK.
While it is galling to see BT spending billions on TV sport for many reasons, it does raise the question as to why this money is not being used to build and maintain and future proof the network, it could be argued that the government is funding BT Sport TV services, but that is a debate for another day.
My concern is the network and provision of “superfast” broadband over fibre, products such as BT Infinity and the same service resold to other providers such as Sky and TalkTalk. Secondary to this is the provision and supply of “high speed” broadband over the traditional copper network with the headline speeds of *up to 24Mbps.
In a quote from the BBC News website “In 2011, then Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that 90% of premises in every local authority area of the UK should have access to internet speeds above 24 megabits per second by May 2015 and a minimum of 2Mbps for others.”
Where I live my broadband speeds are slow and unreliable, so much so that I have had to have a second phone line fitted to enable my house to have useable services. This is not because I live in a rural area, or a long way from the telephone exchange, but because BT chose to cable up this area with a technology called TPON which was a cheap alternative to copper at the time. This was common in many new build areas well into this century. The issue is that TPON is not capable of delivering high speed or superfast broadband.
This restriction means I am unable to use many services seen as standard these days, to download a programme on iPlayer takes longer than the programme itself lasts, and services such as Netflix and ironically BT Sport are not possible to use.
I could raise many more issues, and I have friends and colleagues over the country who have this exact same issue, where houses built at a different time and within a few hundred metres are enjoying speeds of 80Mbps and upwards, I am struggling to get the BBC News page to load on a speed of less than 5% of that.
Listed here are some specific questions I would like answers on from Ian Livingston the Minister for Trade and Investment, and also Maria Miller the Secretary for Culture, Media and Sport (or whoever is currently responsible for this project).
- · What are the current figures and progress to the targets based on the announcement by Jeremy Hunt?
- · How many houses in total in the UK were cabled using TPON?
- · How many of the above were cabled after it was known and established that this technology was not compatible with high speed broadband?
- · What plans are in place to upgrade this nationwide to be suitable for next generation services such as BT Infinity?
- · Specifically for Fairford Leys, what plans are in place for upgrades to the network to enable a standard of service that is acceptable, meaning superfast broadband?
I am fully aware of the lack of regulation around broadband and the ability of BT to use “SIN 349” as a route to reject many questions and specifics around the provision and supply of broadband services and would also expect this to be a question that Mr Livingston and his contacts at BT to be asked.
Should you require any further details from me please ask, otherwise I await your replies.
Links and references:
Jeremy Hunt Quote - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23173157
BT Group - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BT_Group