BT Wholesale’s Sally Davis was reported as warning the Government not to waste money on small rural broadband projects as a patchwork effect couldn’t possibly work (ISP Review article here). There is perhaps some irony in the example she gives – of the early railways not agreeing standards so they couldn’t work together, given that the railways did successfully put the canal’s out of business and a century later, with standards, multiple rail operators are still vyeing for customers everyday.
Perhaps its mischief more than irony – after all, BT is heavily engaged in the NICC’s ALA work and with the BSG’s passive infrastructure group, both seeking industry accepted standards for interoperability.
On a more general point, wouldn’t it be very odd if a whole nation went in search of a solution and without any dissent they all came up with the exactly same answer?
And what is it about the telecoms sector that is so unique that means it can only function with a monopoly at its heart?
Properly functioning markets develop choice and variety. Some of those choices may be small, others large; some risk averse, some daring; some targeting niches, some a wider constituency – that’s what markets do and are.
And that’s why JON Exchange is being created – to provide a marketplace for a competitive market.
What the shift towards next generation broadband represents is the single largest threat to BT’s monopoly in its history. If a region opts for an alternative infrastructure its likely that, without some serious soul-searching, BT’s Openreach will lose that area for at least a generation. This has never happened before, so Sally Davis’ salvo is assuredly the first of many to come.
The Government’s job isn’t to defend one company against threats from a wider and naturally emerging market – quite the reverse. If the Government doesn’t grasp this opportunity with both hands there is a very real risk that it will be held to ransom each and every time the incumbent should invest.
A functioning patchwork market is exactly what we as consumers and electors need; its what the market needs – it just happens not to suit the one with the most to lose.