Broken Telephone Poles

No, this is not a rant about other EU races, it is about the seeming incomprehensibility of Ofcom’s actions with regard to access to BT infrastructure, viz ducts, poles and masts. More specifically the former two items.

The media and broadband glitterati have been rabbiting on about the fact that shortly (in a telco sort of scale of things ie any time this decade), anyone wishing to help UK actually become a game player in the next generations comms world would have access to existing infrastructure. Which makes sense as no-one wants to start putting up new poles or digging up this fair nation’s green and pleasant land unnecessarily.

However, it would seem that all is not quite so rosy as it looked at first glance. Access to ducts and poles is likely to be limited to a subset of uses which do not even begin to allow the implementation of a well-thought out plan (or even the non-existent one we seem to be currently working to).

One begins to wonder why BT have been asked by Ofcom to submit a draft representation by mid Jan 2011, when actually all the uses of the poles and ducts that would have been of any commercial or community interest have been (seemingly) excluded. By Ofcom themselves in their WLA review.

I have previously noted that none of us can build a rural network using existing infrastructure if BT were allowed, for instance, to give 90 day notice on usage of that infrastructure. Nor could any of us be tied into a maintenance contract that allows us to fall into the potential trap, as discovered in Germany, and becoming more evident in the UK as the days shorten, of “strategic incompetence“. UK Plc’s long-term network planning and security of tenure cannot be so tenuous, however much it may suit a private company.

What are BT doing not pointing out to all and sundry that the fair use policy (FUP) has now been moved into the infrastructure world? We’ll give you fair use of our poles as long as you in no way threaten our future business plan, don’t build anything we may (or may not) actually implement in future, and don’t use the infrastructure as it was intended?

And what precisely are Ofcom are doing? Isn’t it time we had a review of how Ofcom are actually protecting UK PLC’s interests vs corporate PLC interests? After all, as it says on their site:

“Ofcom operates under the Communications Act 2003. This detailed Act of Parliament spells out exactly what Ofcom should do – we can do no more or no less than is spelt out in the Act.

The Act says that Ofcom’s general duties should be to further the interests of citizens and of consumers. Meeting these two duties is at the heart of everything we do.”

Oh yes, it is. (Getting into the pantomime spirit of things seemingly required by this whole story)

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