7.30.2017

BT offers broadband to every rural home in the UK, for a price

The offer wouldn’t make use of public funds, but it would compensate for the spending by raising access charges for Openreach’s national network, including BT’s own customers as well as competitors like Sky and TalkTalk. There’s a real chance you would see the cost reflected in higher service fees, rather than absorbed into taxes. Moreover, this is coming just months after British regulator Ofcom proposed that BT cut nearly £100 million (roughly $131 million) in Openreach charges. BT might be trying to counter those rate drops by using rural broadband as its pretext. And like many telecoms, it’s no doubt eager to avoid regulation where possible.

Officials “warmly welcome” the offer, but they’re not sold on it yet. They intend to study whether or not BT’s proposal or a regulatory approach is best for connecting the UK. The contrast between this and rural broadband efforts in the US is notable, however. Regulators have pushed American internet providers into offering rural broadband they likely wouldn’t deliver otherwise, but the government also doesn’t have a short-term goal to connect every home in the country. The UK’s goal is at once more ambitious and more attainable, but that also gives it a hard choice that could have long-lasting repercussions.

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