Broadband in Rural Areas:
Issues in the Traffic Management Bill

Speaking in the House of Commons during its first sitting of 2004, Sir George Young BT, MP for North West Hampshire, challenged aspects of the Government's Traffic Management Bill that could prejudice rapid roll out of broadband, especially in rural areas.


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"I have campaigned in the House with colleagues on both sides to have broadband extended to rural areas. The economics of roll out are fairly marginal, and some telephone exchanges may never be enabled. I hope that the Minister has been in touch with his colleagues at the Department of Trade and Industry and has been able to reassure them that no measure in the Bill will either delay the delivery of broadband or so drive up the costs that it becomes uneconomic. Joined-up government is trying to pool demand for broadband among health and education providers, and that process would be stopped in its tracks if measures in the Bill made the roll out of broadband more difficult. A lot of the work that is covered is demand led. For example, when a customer wants broadband, someone may have to dig up the street to connect him. I do not see how that can be phased into the obligations in clause 49 and 50 that stop anyone digging up a road if the local authority has resurfaced it during the previous 12 months." (Hansard , 5 January 2004, Column 85).

The Traffic Management Bill provides, inter alia, for new regulations governing how and when roads may be dug up to lay or maintain pipes, cables etc. Although in principle most of us would welcome a reduction in the traffic problems caused by such work, there is considerable concern in the telecomunications industry about additional costs and increasing bureaucratic hurdles that inhibit deployment of telecoms infrastructure or in some cases could tip the balance against a new network. This is specially the case for rural networks, where costs of deployment have to be amortised across a relatively lower numbers of users.

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