The government initiative to roll out superfast broadband to Britain’s rural areas has come under further criticism today, after Shadow Business Minister Chi Onwurah warned that – due to the program – BT were on route to monopolizing the broadband market.
Onwurah launched her attack on the broadband scheme, known as the BDUK (Broadband Development) Framework, to the House of Lords before a select committee enquiry into broadband. A government framework intended to supply superfast broadband speeds to rural Britain, the BDUK aims to install fibre optic internet in areas deprived of the infrastructure to benefit from fast
internet speeds. The fibre optic internet wires will replace the inferior connection means of using a copper wire. The program currently has thirty-five councils signed up to the scheme, however only two companies are bidding for the rights to install the broadband. Those two companies are BT and Japanese company Fujitsu. It seems more than likely that home-grown broadband and phone network provider BT will be picked ahead of Fujitsu, with the former enjoying close relations with the government.
Onwurah has thus subsequently warned that the government were currently ‘sleepwalking’ their way into a broadband monopoly held by BT. What came as the biggest surprise in Onwurah’s speech
was her suggestion that BT might even have to go as far as being split in two, in order to avoid an impending situation where the British telecommunication giants hold a monopoly over the market.
Onwurah said: “BT must be made to understand that if superfast broadband is a monopoly, they will not be allowed to enjoy it. I think structural separation is something we are going to have to look
at. It’s a significant intervention and BT would rightly complain but monopoly provision of superfast broadband just isn’t an acceptable option”.
Virgin have voiced similar concerns, claiming that BT were more than extremely likely to receive the majority of the government’s £530 million earmarked to improve Britain’s broadband.
BT has meanwhile claimed that they have actually invested a huge £2.5 billion of its own cash, in commitment to drive superfast broadband to all areas of the country. BT also accuses Virgin of doing little to expand its network outside the larger urban populations.