The UK government has largely shunned recommendations put forward by the House of Lords Communications Committee, following a controversial inquiry that warned of a closed and anti-competitive broadband infrastructure being created.
The government has said that it hopes to have the best broadband network in Europe by 2015, and has committed a minimum of £830 million up until 2015 to support the rollout. The money is being distributed to local authorities that bid for funding via a framework created by governing body Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK).
However, there has been growing concern around competition after BT and Fujitsu were left as the last remaining companies to be picked to compete under the framework, with seven other suppliers having pulled out. BT has so far won all the public money to roll-out networks in rural areas.
The Committee came out in the summer all guns blazing saying that the government lacked a strategy and that it had not thought through the complex issues.
The core focus of the Committee’s report was around the government’s reluctance to demand ISPs to provide open access to dark fibre. It suggested that Ofcom should force current infrastructure owners to provide open access at the level of the cabinet, and active and passive access, together with rights to install and co-locate active equipment on relevant links, at the level of the exchange.
Smaller ISPs could then rent the existing fibre that they are connecting to, and would theoretically allow any type of compatible access network to be built by any local community, SME or infrastructure provider.
It was hoped that by providing open access to dark fibre would encourage increased competition in the market, as it reduces the costs for smaller players.
However, the government has now issued a response that completely dismisses the proposals.
It said that it is "content with the position on access to infrastructure" and that "rather than expediting Broadband Delivery UK’s (BDUK) programme, mandating the provision of dark fibre is likely to impede progress".
“BDUK has sought to ensure the right balance is struck between competition and value for money. The government does not therefore anticipate that the Commission will mandate dark fibre as a specified access product,” reads the response.
It continues: “Placing that additional requirement (in addition to a passive infrastructure access product) on suppliers would be likely to significantly increase the cost of delivery with no clearly identified additional competitive benefit.”
The full response can be read here.
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