Cochrane argues that competition in the UK broadband market is weak, which is driving down quality and speeds, and as a result, ISPs should move away from competing on infrastructure and move towards competing on services. He suggests that for this to happen Ofcom should regulate BT to lease its fibre to other operators.
“The competition shouldn’t be about fibre in the ground, it should be about the services put on the fibre. Take the mobile market and 3G as an example, all of the mobile operators bought 36,000 masts each at a cost of £2bn each. When in fact one set of 36,000 towers would have done the job, they could have shared them, and competed on services,” he said.
“We could empower Ofcom to regulate BT’s wavelengths on fibre and use different wavelengths for different players on fibre that’s already in the ground. Other ISPs would just lease the wavelengths from BT at a competitive rate. BT needs to make a bit of money obviously, but if they extort the prices they will cripple the opportunity,” he added.
“This model works for power and gas, it could work for broadband.”
Finally, Cochrane blames the government for its guidance on the broadband problem in the UK and says that until it develops a realistic plan for deployment to all homes it will not achieve its goal of having the best superfast network in Europe by 2015.
“In my view we have a serious leadership problem. I don’t know what this country is going to be when it grows up, and neither does anyone else,” he said.
“This country has no vision, no mission and no business plan. Until we have these for the UK, we are going to continue wasting energy meandering around making random decisions and quoting random numbers,” he added.
“Hopefully the government will get to that point because broadband is every bit important as road, water, gas and electricity.”