From Simon John Smith
Friday, March 15, 2002

Oftel madešthe decision in 1999šthat BTšopen up it's local loop by introducing a clause to it's licence. LLU oršLocal Loop Unbundlingšis the process whereby BT should open up it's local network tošother companies,šthe idea being that this introduces competition through provision of access to the network by other operators who want to provide DSL services and the like more competitively than perhaps BT could. Being as it is that we are now 3 yrs on and only a handful of sites have been selected to pilot the phasing in of the change, suggests that the best chance small towns like HB have of being provided with a DSL service may be sometime off yet. I think the nearest BT exchange which has been opened up to LLU is Leeds, but despite this crawl through BT's infrastructure it would still require a competitor with mighty investment to roll out even using the infrastructure BT has in place. This aside one may ask, well this still doesn't mean BT can't offer broadband to area's like HB themselves and you would be right. However, one could speculate that the billions spent on 3G licences in the mobile boom with the expected rewards these will reap in the next few years, coupled with falling share prices etc also means BT have their focus elsewhere with perhaps little attention to investing in roll-out schemes to towns like HB that offer little marketing leverage or significant increase inšconsumer markets. BT is also breaking it's divisions up and selling off bit's here and there; more money being spent on internal change than on product delivery for customer retention....

I surf the internet frequently and am also in the process of planning the launch of my own personal web page. As a BT Anytime customer I willšprobably choose BT to host the site and through shear laziness continue to subscribe to their ISP for standard access. I don't have too many bones to pick with the service I get, other than it's over priced, certainly in this day and age and occasionally connection speeds and handshakes (for want of a better term) are poor. I too however would like to see ADSL being delivered nationally and in particular to towns like HB. The nature of the service suggests that it would make for the provision of networks which can be exploited more by community projects and internetworking being seen by all as a common tool to facilitate community activity and growth, especially in small business. Importantly for me however it would promote community sharing if exciting local initiatives were developed to reach those in the more isolated parts. This is something HB is famous for and the HB web is indicative of this approach, we simply need an improved infrastructure to help us progress. If nothing else, it is arguable that the more isolated or rural communities need such infrastructures to connect back into their more bustling neighbours, simply to keep in touch. Alas, BT is opening up exchanges in large cities because, I suspect, the markets are obviously bigger and therefore the charges they can levy on those they let into their buildings will be profitable. The same applies to those who offer the service over BT's infrastructure, they are more likely to target the larger customer base. Capitalist principles are not easily broken.

Perhaps a survey should be done in HB and surrounding area's to get a view on just how many people would subscribe to the service. Only if we then multiply a healthy proportion by the monthly subscription charge and wave the £ signs in front of BT (or another) might they just think about it.

I sympathise with both comments made by David Glover and Andy Hodchild. I for example have a sister living in Germany and family with internet access who would welcome calls via NetMeeting regularly, if only we were assured the creaking infrastructure could be improved to make for an improved experience. I also see no harm in looking to the council (or MP) to get a view on the situation. Perhaps if the local schools and small businesses had viable projects which would make good use of Broadband, we could use the local government services to front our cause, or at least star jarring the door open for us.

I would support any move which may help get the service offered locally.