BT’s response to B4RN is a day late and a dollar short
BT is a day late and a few dollars short of B4RN, the feisty community-owned network operator, when it comes to fibre.
A day or two after B4RN started digging in its 1000Mbps symmetrical fibre, BT popped up offering Lancastrians “up to 80Mbps” downloads and “up to 20Mbps” uploads, and trousering £32.5m in public money in the process.
£10.8m will come from BDUK, the government’s broadband withdrawals-only cash machine, £16.5m from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and £5.2m from local councils (£4.7m from Lancashire County Council, £300,000 from Blackburn with Darwen Council and £230,000 from Blackpool Council).
According to the BT press release, this, together with £30m from BT, will bring its total fibre investment in Lancashire to £130m.
So far there is little to show for the money. The release quotes Ofcom figures saying Lancastrians’ average download speed is 7Mbps, basically normal for UK.
Worse, BT may be overstating the money. Notes to the release say BT is waiting for confirmation of the ERDP’s £16.5m. Even the £130m includes BT’s estimate of what it will cost to run fibre to the cabinets in the “commercially viable” parts of Lancashire.
The release gives no clue about BT’s contingency plan if the tight-fisted ERDP doesn’t come through, or its commercial roll-out hits snags like blocked ducts.
The release goes on to say the money will be “extending access to fibre broadband to 97 per cent of premises by the end of 2014”.
Most people who read that will think it means BT will run fibre into homes and offices. They will be wrong.
You have to read nine more paragraphs to find the sentence, “Fibre to the Cabinet will be the prevalent technology deployed under the project.”
To be fair, the release says later if people ask for it, they can have fibre to their homes running at “up to 300Mbps”. No prices are given, nor availability dates.
B4RN, on the other hand, is offering more than three times BT’s top speed for £30 a month from mid-summer, if the dig goes well.
If that’s the best BT can do, I may increase my shareholding in B4RN.