Responding to comments from Internet Service Providers and industry observers, Sir George Young, MP for North West Hampshire, today called for greater transparency on the basis for BT's "trigger levels" for enabling ADSL at rural and semi-rural exchanges.
"I very strongly welcomed the idea of BT's new "pre-registration" scheme through which I and my constituents can demonstrate local demand for ADSL", said Sir George. "Only two locations in my constituency are currently served by ADSL, leaving most of the towns and villages inaccessible. I am under constant pressure to bring broadband to these areas."
"BT's new pre-registration arrangements leave a lot to be desired - having tried to pre-register myself, I ended up with a blank template from my ISP, who did not seem to be part of the plot. However, even if BT and the ISPs get the bugs out of the pre-registration scheme, I expect that in many villages there will remain a gap between the number of people who are sufficiently informed and motivated to go through the process, and reach the trigger number we need to get ADSL implemented. Also, doubts have been raised about how BT has arrived at their trigger numbers.
"BT, the government and some suppliers are now urging rural companies and individuals to consider the alternatives to ADSL, such as satellite services and local wireless. While these have their place in the scheme of things, we still need a clearer picture of what areas can definitely be reached by ADSL, and a basis for comparing the overall cost of ADSL and other options in those places where the commercial case is marginal. In some cases a local community might then find ways to raise the money to bridge the gap between the purely commercial case, and local economic and social need.
"The answer to this seems clear. OFTEL should commission an independent assessment of the investment cost and payback projections for enabling additional exchanges. Since BT has no competition for the deployment of ADSL there is a strong case for transparency. Users and the industry would then know exactly where they stand; local communities could make an informed judgement as to whether to wait for ADSL, take local action to deliver ADSL, work on alternative technologies, or some combination of these."