At the JON Exchange, we’re very excited by the Government’s announced strategy for superfast broadband today. The feeling that network operators would be used by Government as pawns to bargain with BT again I think is receding; confidence among network operators and builders that its safe to invest should be rising; and JON Exchange is ready to play its part.
The last Government’s first generation broadband policy led to early improvements in speed and geographical coverage but largely ignored the need for a competitive infrastructure. Competition has ever since been focussed on a fairly narrow service layer with infrastructure investments largely limited to sitting on top of BT’s cables, unpinning BT’s dominance in the market. There was a general sense that the Government used smaller, alternative initiatives as pawns to negotiate the deal they always wanted from BT.
The legacy of that policy is that we now have widespread but very basic infrastructure without a competitive market which would have ensured continued investment at the most basic level – in the physical infrastructure to our homes and businesses.
Today’s announcement by Jeremy Hunt signals a more balanced approach which should ensure a fair and competitive infrastructure market embodying diversity and innovation, and if successful will lead to market forces causing naturally occurring investment in the future.
By focussing on hubs as the gateway between infrastructure investment and service providers, the Government appears to be removing the assumption that BT’s exchanges and metro-nodes will be the default locations for new broadband investment. That’s not to say, of course, that BT will be excluded – I’m certain that they will win the opportunity to build and run significant parts of our future broadband ecosystem but the playing field feels like it has been levelled, giving alternative network operators an opportunity also.
The idea of a diverse and competitive market in any other walk of life is normally considered a good thing but the telecoms industry is largely used to a limited scope for competition, largely focussed at the service layer. Where it was permitted, competition generally flourished but the nature of competition even at these levels was often stifled by the lack of diversity in the basic infrastructure. The creation of a patchwork of infrastructures, stitched together around regional hubs and their offerings presented on an open marketplace is likely to change that forever.
Several years ago I called them Joint Open Network Hubs – JON hubs. Others call them village or community pumps. Whatever we call them, JON Exchange excited by the prospect of helping to draw together the various parts of the industry in a vibrant and exciting marketplace.