12th of October marks the debate held in the House of Commons on the issue of poor broadband/mobile coverage that’s lingering in the 5% of households in the UK that’s not benefitting from either the market or Government’s rural broadband. This minority is labelled “Notspot” which outlines an area that cannot receive broadband Internet or mobile coverage or is not reliable.
For three hours, the House of Commons could possibly see the roll-out of fixed/mobile broadband across these areas filling in the remaining gaps, to achieve this, the Government is prompted to host a “not-spot summit”. But a bigger question remains; the future of broadband which is up to BT.
From 2010, the Government has been working to ensure that the UK has access to superfast broadband network. To ensure sufficient motivation, the Government has contracted out the job resulting in BT winning all contracts in the £830M programme supplying 95% of households by 2017. As a result, the UK has fair statistics in its broadband speed in comparison to our European neighbours.
The debate also encounters the existing problem of copper versus fibre. So far, BT’s latest technology uses FTTC (Fibre-to-the-cabinet) to surpass ADSL’s maximum speed of 24mbps to accommodate the country’s needs of faster speeds. But this only gets to the street cabinet, the last hurdle to the house from the cabinet is taken over by the copper network which has surprisingly adapted to this change and has proven to provide speeds of over 100mbps. However, we should be expecting a new pinnacle as BT’s new cutting edge breakthrough of “g.fast” rumoured to boast of over 300mbps. Though as of now, BT’s FTTH (Fibre-to-the-home) is our long term answer as long as BT continues to use copper.
To eradicate this problem, some of the country expresses the need for BT and Openreach to be sold off. Currently Openreach is responsible for the copper and fibre network and is known as a severance of BT. This brings to the argument’s main point of there being more competition as this gives other ISPs (Internet Service Provider) the chance to catch up with BT. However, this is met with backlash from BT bringing their opinion that this would do more harm than good as this would possibly delay innovation in UK broadband. But Ofcom regulator has hinted that “greater competition” was a higher priority as more customers would benefit from the improved service. Siding with BT, the Government has expressed to the Financial Times that this would be “incredibly time-consuming” and could backfire.
Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey will respond to the debate on notposts, but it will not be his call to make but the decision will be with Sharen White of Ofcom to decide whether to allow the Competition and Markets Authority will handle the broadband market.