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BT Fiber Infrastructure Plans 'Fatal' To Competition 100

Posted by samzenpus
from the but-do-you-think-it's-a-good-idea? dept.
twoheadedboy writes "BT today revealed it is to start selling its Physical Infrastructure Access (PIA) for fiber broadband product to other providers later this month, but the announcement was met with one particularly cold response. Geo Networks, which is helping deliver superfast networks in Wales in partnership with the Welsh Assembly, said it was going to withdraw bidding for Government-provided BDUK funds and in all next-generation access sales. 'Inadequacies of the current PIA product are fatal to infrastructure competition,' he added. 'The Government's stated desire for a competitive market in the provision of new optical fiber infrastructure is at risk of complete failure.'"
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BT Fiber Infrastructure Plans 'Fatal' To Competition

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 17, 2011 @01:47AM (#38082880)

    BT is willing to charge very little for the fibre to the customer but gouges on the fibre backhaul to the provider network. if the rest of the players had any balls they would walk out too.
    without backhaul fibre is pointless. same thing in canada with Bell charging very little per customer for 3rd party ISPs but charging $22,000 per gigE for backhaul. same set of monopolistic thieves keeping the internet at crappy levels in first world countries.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jez9999 (618189)

      Yeah. It's funny how conservatives the world over always talk the talk about real competition, and yet when push comes to shove they seem the least likely to actually implement it well. They want the free market, which is very rarely the same as the competitive market.

      • by niftydude (1745144) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @02:16AM (#38082962)
        BT was initially a government run organisation for many years before it was privatized. So they are basically a government created monopoly which was then sold off -mostly to cronies of the government of the era.

        This isn't either the free market or the competitive market at work - it is a monopoly unfairly created by the government (by which I mean the public's tax dollars) screwing everyone else over.
        • by iserlohn (49556) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @03:18AM (#38083156) Homepage

          BT is no longer a crown corporation. One could argue that the service it provided when it was public-owned is much better than it is now that it has privatized. Infrastructure and utilities is probably the most suitable application of a public ownership, and it has always been difficult to ensure competition in a market-based model due to the capital investment and economies of scale once the infrastructure is in place. This is prevalent in both telecommunications and energy sectors catering to the end-user.

          Of course, this also applies to things like rail transport which require extensive infrastructure - take British Rail for example.

          • by petermgreen (876956) <plugwash@p10l i n k . n et> on Thursday November 17, 2011 @07:16AM (#38084128) Homepage

            I remember my parents talking about what phone service used to be like. I remember them talking of messages like "all the lines to birmingham are in use". I remember phone call prices that made the phone something you used for short calls to get important information across. Long chats on the phone were a rare indulgence.

            Nowadays the phone network seems to connect calls extremely reliably and unmetered call packages are common so you can chat as much as you like (provided you keep each individual call less than an hour).

            How much of this is down to competition (enabled by regulators forcing BT to share infrastructure) and how much is down to technological improvements I do not know

            • by jonbryce (703250)

              As far as voice calls go, it is mostly down to competition from the mobile networks. Does anyone actually use their home landline for voice calls any more?

              • by thejynxed (831517)

                I do, since I refuse to carry around my own modern equivalent of the prisoner's ball and chain. I keep an emergency phone in my wife's glovebox for trips (with the battery removed), but outside of that...

                I'll pass on being tracked everywhere I go and having all of my personal calls monitored and recorded, thanks. That kind of thing can be mostly avoided using a landline (tons of hardware available for sale still to encrypt/scramble/etc landline calls). I also refuse to be at others beck and call. I don't wa

              • by dave562 (969951)

                I use my home line or office line as often as possible. There is a night and day difference in call quality between a hard wired phone and cellular.

            • It is technological improvements mostly. Computerised switching means there is little to no human involvement in the average telephone call, which brings the cost right down. Calls are so cheap for BT and their ilk that It would be cheaper to run the entire network unmetered than it is to itemise, send out and collect payment for telephone bills.

              Line rental prices are the level they are because they are the price BT levies, and unless you've got your own LLU facilities in the exchange you have to rent subsc

              • It is technological improvements mostly. Computerised switching means there is little to no human involvement in the average telephone call,

                That was true in the GPO days too, Strowger and crossbar switches weren't exactly new technology even then.

                What's really helped reduce the cost of long distance communications is fibre, which delivers much higher capacity for a given price than microwave or coax.

            • Nowadays the phone network seems to connect calls extremely reliably and unmetered call packages are common so you can chat as much as you like (provided you keep each individual call less than an hour).

              BT's unmetered packages concern me somewhat. They are free up to an hour, but after an hour the per-minute charges are far higher than you'd pay on a metered package. What is the purpose of the hour limit? Presumably to trap people into accidentally overrunning the hour and inadvertently running up their bill. When tariffs are _designed_ to cause people to accidentally incur unexpected charges, I start questioning the ethics of the company involved...

        • by GauteL (29207) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @05:17AM (#38083558)

          "by which I mean the public's tax dollars"

          Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

        • by Bert64 (520050) <bert@s[ ]hdot.fi ... m ['las' in gap]> on Thursday November 17, 2011 @05:47AM (#38083698) Homepage

          The government should re-nationalise the infrastructure, and then run it on a break even basis...

          Physical infrastructure is a natural monopoly because if the massive up front investment required to actually build it, and the massive inefficiencies of building multiple sets, so it makes sense for this to be government controlled.

        • BT was initially a government run organisation for many years before it was privatized. So they are basically a government created monopoly which was then sold off -mostly to cronies of the government of the era.

          This isn't either the free market or the competitive market at work - it is a monopoly unfairly created by the government (by which I mean the public's tax dollars) screwing everyone else over.

          Yes but shouldn't Conservatives done more to cut the cord between BT and the government? Maybe broken it up? Or something. Rather than just sit on their hands?

        • by sjames (1099)

          It is EXACTLY the sort of "privatization" we so often see from conservatives. A simplistic assumption that if you just sell it off, "the market" will magically fix any problems that arise.

      • by AHuxley (892839)
        Would you like to be a virtual ISP charging real telco prices for internet connections and enjoying the profits while they last?
        Or be a real telco paying local expert prices to clean out "your" crushed ducts in suburbia?
        Like to pay for a van in every small city and teams to roll up to fix 1990's tech?
        Or have a smart 25 yo with the codes to sitting with a laptop looking after 83 counties overnight?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by dadioflex (854298)
          BT inherited the copper monopoly at the time, and legislation opened up their exchanges to competition. But you hit the nail on the head. BT innovate, run the infrastructure and handle all the external servicing. Even if you get your fibre product from someone other than BT, it's a BT engineer that comes out to fix it if something goes wrong.

          BT do NOT have a fibre monopoly. Talking about them as if they did is reactionary. Virgin Media, while not available to 100% of the UK and saddled with crazy debt th
          • BT have managed to keep the existing system running, innovate and run Fibre with out going bust ...

            BT had a government sanctioned competitor (Mercury) that went bust as soon as they had to actually spend money on the infrastructure they should have built, but decided they could just leech off BT ...

            Virgin, are saddled with debt because they are the result of a spending spree by various companies who merged all the fibre companies (and others) into the only real competition BT have ...

            • Virgin are saddled with crazy debt because the various companies which Virgin is made up of had to collectively dig up almost every residential road in Britain, plus everywhere else they needed to lay fibre (can't sling fibre on telegraph poles). That's not profligacy, that's the cost of entry to the national-telecommunications-provider market. And that's why we're unlikely to see any more real competition any time soon.

              Interestingly, NTL's debt, in 2001, was larger than the GDP of Panama (and a substantial

          • by Stalks (802193) *

            BT most definitely have a fibre monopoly.Virgin don't even offer a fibre connection!

            Oh, you mean the fibre back-haul from the cabinets? That is arguably transparent from the user when speeds are governed by the slowest link in the chain. Granted Virgin has the fastest theoretical speed on their standard network but BT have offered REAL fibre connections for years and are now bringing REAL fibre to a consumer level with FTTH.

            Virgin's "Fibre optic cable" term is a joke, the ASA were stupid not to of struck it

          • by makomk (752139)

            BT appear to have been failing to properly maintain their copper infrastructure - which competitors can use to offer products that are better than BT's offerings - in order to drive them onto fibre which can't. The only actual advantage of fibre-to-the-curb seems to be that it actually gets maintained. While it may be faster than copper, the monthly limits aren't much higher so good luck making use of it, and unlike unlike with the old copper-to-the-exchange system no providers are in a position where they

            • by Bert64 (520050) <bert@s[ ]hdot.fi ... m ['las' in gap]> on Thursday November 17, 2011 @06:04AM (#38083742) Homepage

              Yes this is something that so often gets overlooked, connection speeds get faster and faster but the data caps are getting lower... All this means is that you can hit the cap and get disconnected more quickly.

              When they offered 512k connections with no data cap, that worked out to around 150GB/month downloaded (not counting upload) if you ran it flat out... They also offered 2mb connections which could pull 600GB.
              Now they offer a 40mb connection with a 200GB limit, which in actual fact makes it more like "640k connection, burstable to 40mb for limited periods".

              What we really need, in combination with fibre, is small community ISPs... That way you can get high speed uncontended connections with those living near you, which is great for gaming and torrent like protocols... Then other common data can be cached locally too.

              And yes, the price of backhaul is ridiculous, and that just includes the line from the exchange to the isp, so even downloading from servers hosted by the ISP is costly... That's why most ISPs don't bother with caching anymore, internet transit is cheap, bt backhaul is not.

              • When they offered 512k connections with no data cap, that worked out to around 150GB/month downloaded (not counting upload) if you ran it flat out...

                Yes, but it was at 50:1 contention, or a rather measly 10 kbps/user average, so not everyone could do that. The average user now uses much more than the 3 GB per month that that would allow.

      • Yeah. It's funny how conservatives the world over always talk the talk about real competition, and yet when push comes to shove they seem the least likely to actually implement it well. They want the free market, which is very rarely the same as the competitive market.

        Conservatives, like Communists, wants something that can never exist so that they always have something about which to bitch when convenient, opportune, or advantageous. They gladly turn a blind eye to other non-free aspects of the market when it is to their benefit. Nobody should be shocked by such hypocrisy from politicians but when ideologues start spouting off about the free market I just stop listening.

    • by dadioflex (854298)
      If the "competition" (ie ticks on the back of an elephant) isn't happy with the situation they should band together and spend the billions building their own fibre network. It's that or the fibre gets nationalized (thereby dooming it to inadequate growth, sloppy supervision and spiralling costs) and every ISP gets equal access, but that will kill innovation dead.
      • They did and the Result is Virgin Media ... and they have their own fast fibre network, this is why this story is laughable, there are two big fibre companies, there is competition....and still the little leeches complain ...

        • by Bert64 (520050)

          Virgin Media is not available everywhere, are not expanding their network, and don't provide their service wholesale so you're stuck with their ISP service which means single dynamic ip, no ipv6 etc.

          • I'm on Virgin and have had the same IP address for years. It's not guaranteed to be static - but it is static enough that I don't bother with any dynamic DNS services.

        • by makomk (752139)

          Which BT have responded by rolling out their own fibre-to-the-curb to areas with Virgin Media first, using their existing Government-funded infrastructure to undercut the competition, and leaving other areas to stew low down on the priority list. Gotta love monopolies.

        • by Cato (8296)

          Virgin is really no more of a "fibre network" than BT's FTTC (Infinity) - they use Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) like every other cable operator, so the fibre turns into coax between the Virgin building and the customer premises (hence the Hybrid).

          Of course Virgin like to lie about this in their marketing and claim they are all fibre...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Competition can be assured if BT offers PIA services at exactly the same price to other companies as to its internal users. One way to do that transparently is to split of the PIA provider and to have it offer access at equal terms to all (including BT). Another more difficult manner is through rather invasive and expensive regulation.

  • Competition, yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HopefulIntern (1759406) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @03:52AM (#38083248)
    BT fibre is indeed harmful to the competition. The competition being Virgin fibre. The good news is, there will no longer be a monopoly on fibre. The bad news is, those of us who do not have Virgin fibre, and live in broadband notspots, will not see any BT fibre either. Again, this is for the purposes of competition. BT have actually said they will roll out fibre to my exchange by March next year. However, the fine print says that "rolling out fibre" to the exchange means just that; to the exchange. The fibre itself will only run to select cabinets, in my case, only 50% of them. Guess which ones? The ones that already have streets cabled with Virgin fibre, so they can poach Virgin customers. BT already get my £15 per month for the abysmal 0.7mbps they provide, and have no interest in bringing me a better service since I am already paying them.
    • Virgin isn't exactly much better - about 10 years ago their predecessor received a government grant to extend their network, so the town I was living in at the time had all it's roads ripped up while they laid the infrastructure out to cabinets on all street corners.

      Did we ever actually get any service? No. That cable has lain unused ever since. The grant stopped short of providing money to hook up the buildings, so it never happened.

      • I feel your pain. My road is partially cabled. It stops a few houses down, and Virgin won't complete the street because it isn't profitable for them.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Recently I contacted my ISP to find out why I had 750 kb/s upload and yet 40 kb/s upload since I was looking to upload some stuff to youtube and uploading 3 gig at that speed is like pulling teeth. My ISP informed me that BT uses this cap on all it's 20CN lines and the only way to get a better upload is to wait for BT to upgrade the exchange.

      BT is not only holding back the broadband industry, it's restricting the UK's access to taking part in various websites often used to discover new artists and launch c

    • by Xest (935314)

      How do you find out what cabinets BT is rolling out to? this is something I'm interested in seeing as my exchange is enabled but my cabinet is not.

      • It was made public by a local online newszine, after they spoke to our MP. Most likely you won't be able to find out directly from BT, so you have to ask someone who works in the council.
      • by Pax681 (1002592)

        How do you find out what cabinets BT is rolling out to? this is something I'm interested in seeing as my exchange is enabled but my cabinet is not.

        try this http://www.samknows.com/broadband/exchange_search [samknows.com]
        enter your postcode and then select your exchange. it will tell you what equipments your exchange has, what LLU ISPs are availabe and when FTTC/fibre will be available bud. great site.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    There is no such thing as "BT". There is "BT Retail", which rents phonelines and is an ISP. Then there is "BT Wholesale", which provides infrastructure to ISPs, including BT Retail, but also many others.

    For ADSL, that works quite well: "BT" (retail) talk to BT Wholesale in the same way that other ADSL providers do, allowing competition. The only issue is that small ISPs find it hard to compete with the big ones, because of the big jump in price bands between having a few customers, and having a few more.

    BT

    • by makomk (752139)

      Some of the reasons why BT Retail are shitty are actually imposed by BT Wholesale. For example, they have fairly expensive per-gigabyte charges, so BT Wholesale-based ISPs generally have low monthly usage limits. BT Wholesale also tends to break important parts of their infrastructure and not actually notice, often resulting in entire exchanges worth of customers dropping offline for several hours.

    • by makomk (752139)

      Also, BeThere in particular are a LLU-unbundling based ISP. They don't use BT Wholesale, instead installing their own DSLAMs at exchanges. It's the whole reason they can be so much better than BT, and it's not possible with BT's FTTC product - that puts its equivalent of DSLAMs in the cabinets, which have no room for third-party equipment.

    • by Malc (1751)

      According to their blog, Be are trialling fibre service at an exchange in Barking. They're getting there, but too slowly for many people.

      • by Builder (103701)

        Yeah, I'm not looking forward to the BE network upgrade next year. Readdressing the network, etc. is going to be a bit of a pain.

    • For ADSL, that works quite well: "BT" (retail) talk to BT Wholesale in the same way that other ADSL providers do, allowing competition

      Except that BT wholesale won't offer naked ADSL, so you need to pay £10/month to BT retail for a telephone line to be allowed to use one of BT retail's competitors for ADSL. This makes it very difficult for them to compete with Virgin, who can offer decent Internet-only packages that cost as little as the cheapest package that competing ISPs offer if you include the BT line rental.

    • There is no such thing as "BT".

      Well there is "BT group".....

      There is "BT Retail", which rents phonelines and is an ISP. Then there is "BT Wholesale"

      Afaict with BT ADSL/phone service there are actually THREE parts of BT group involved. BT retail, BT wholesale and BT openreach.

      BT openreach maintain the physical lines.
      BT wholesale operate the ADSL/pots/etc equipment that runs on those lines
      BT retail sell service to end users.

      Big providers (like o2/be*, sky, talktalk/tiscali/etc**) can buy access to the phone lines direct off BT openreach and colocate their own POTS and/or ADSL gear in the BT exchange (a practice known as loca

    • by Pax681 (1002592)
      you forgot BT Openreach who are in charge of the infrastructure

      So what's the setup for fibre? How come other ISPs aren't able to pick this up and sell it to customers? Is fibre not required to be provided wholesale? Is it being sold by BT Wholesale in a way that favors BT Retail over other providers? If so, these are issues that Ofcom should be taking VERY seriously.

      Openreach roll it out..... BT retail always get first shot at it and wholesale always delay roll out to others, basically till OFCOM kick thei

  • This has been incredibly annoying for me. Originally it was supposed to be in my region last November, then March, now it's due for March next year. Even considering that, I've no way of knowing if they're going to roll it out to my cabinet.

    Also annoying is that most of the LLU companies don't yet offer fibre services. O2/Be have been pretty great, no noticable throttling, no bandwidth limits, best uptime I've experienced from a broadband provider but they don't have any plans at the moment to offer fibr
    • by jonbryce (703250)

      You don't have to use O2's router. Any router that lets you change the MAC address to the same one as on the O2 router you were issued with will work.

      • by abigsmurf (919188)
        Not true as I found out. There's some quirk in how they provide their service than means some random routers won't work with O2. Hours of headscratching before I find messages posted in loads of places saying the router I'd got didn't work with O2 at all.

        Changing the MAC address is only if you don't want to wait for O2 to re-allocate your IP.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    BT are shit. Overpriced, poor performance, awful customer service. Fuck them.

    • by Geeky (90998)

      Yeah, but the competition aren't much better.

      I was with BT when they were the only option for ADSL, back around 2000/2001. I switched away after I had a problem they wouldn't resolve. It even got to the point where an engineer had visited and confirmed that the problem was at the exchange. Even so, every time I phoned up I had to go through the "have you tried rebooting" rigmarole just to get an update. After two weeks of no service I cancelled.

      I switched to Pipex who still had a good reputation at the time

  • Is a government controlled network better than a government created network that privately owned companies fight over to then resell to the people that payed to have it built? It seems to me that having the money go directly back to the government so it can be invested in more infrastructure would be better than having the government spend money to control the companies fighting over the lines. The U.S. went through all this to break up AT&T. Tax payer dollars built the phone network. It was privati

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