OFCOM and our various governments in the UK believe that broadband is a done deal. It’s sorted, everyone has it and we’re riding high in the world tables.
The reality is that this modern utility, which has become pretty much essential to life, makes our railways look efficient.
I have been on and off with my BT broadband connection for two weeks. Watching BT react to this has been fascinating. They have, naturally, tried to use technology as their first line of support, so have good online and desktop tools to figure out where the problem is. Kudos for that.
Then they start to fall apart. There’s a helpline, online help, a social team to deal with Twitter criticism, and eventually you end up at an Indian call center. The operatives there are very intelligent and well trained and clearly have good automated tools for testing lines, etc… And if they cannot fix things they escalate to a second level team and then this gets escalated to the engineers at Open Reach, who are a supplier to BT Broadband despite being part of the same company.
But the trouble is that all of these support systems and pathways begin to disintegrate if there is a real problem. I suspect that we have a local problem with water ingress in a cabinet or on the lines that is causing the outage. The Indian support boosted the line and this helped. Then our connection went again when it rained.
This is a difficult problem to troubleshoot, but at the end of the day I’m a customer who can’t work.. My wife, who works for Google, says her colleagues finds this riddiculous, living in what is called the UK’s ‘Silicon Valley’. She therefore has to battle on another monopoly pretending to be a business (Great Western Railway) to get to work.
But this is a bigger problem for OFCOM, the UK regulator (and equivalent to FCC). I could switch to Sky or TalkTalk or any other provider and the problem would not go away. There is only one line coming into this house and BT provide it. (Unfortunately I live in a part of town not covered by the excellent Virgin Media, who provided me with a brilliant service in London for over a decade).
I am able to post this criticism thanks to my EE mobile. Just have a look at this:
This is much faster than my BT Broadband connection in my living room. Trouble is, I only have 20GB a month allowance with EE, and I easily use around 100GB a day (yeah, Netflix…). If my account had no cap I would have told BT where to sling their useless service. So, why can’t I ? Why is there no competition in this private market. Because it is hugely subsidised by Government.
So, back to linear TV, but with great IM, email and browsing over 4G (or 3.9G as my knowledgable friends insist I call it).
Worse still, last weekend I was at our house in Wales, where I was getting 20Kbps from our Sky account, which is on an unbundled BT exchanged. There is no mobile phone reception at all unless the wind blows in a certain direction. House prices in the area have collapsed due to the lack of connectivity.
Wales, Berkshire, BT is a problem this country cannot afford.
Whoever in Government who spends a penny on Overseas Aid, Education, Transport, Defence, anything, should consider what provides value for money.
OFCOM is a government QUANGO that exists to make the Government (and themselves) look good and they are providing a buffer, along with institutions like the Welsh Assembly Government, that are protecting and feeding BT instead of encouraging real competition.
There are only two options here: renationalise BT or implement real competition.