BT race to Infinity: a Trojan horse?


Fibre Optics

BT has been making headlines over the results of its “race to infinity” campaign which ended on the 31st of December 2010. The UK competition promised the top exchange areas with the most votes an earlier live date of the new fibre to the cabinet broadband service, often referred to as F.T.T.C.

The results have been quite controversial, as the top six exchanges managed a 100% public vote. The logistics of getting a 100% have made the results quite incredible. BT has announced that instead of the original planned top five exchanges, that it will enable the top six that achieved a 100 vote. These six exchanges are:

Baschurch, Shropshire
Blewbury, Oxfordshire
Caxton, Cambridgeshire
Innerleithen, Scottish Borders
Madingley, Cambridgeshire
Whitchurch, Hampshire

While I’m sure this news is great for the people that connect to these exchanges. One has to wonder if this huge PR stunt was a bit of a Trojan horse. In my town we only managed a meagre 2.9% of possible votes. This was even with the local radio and newspaper mentioning the scheme and lots of locals trying to spread the news on facebook and by word of mouth. Now this is a pretty dismal result, but if I was to ask most people in my rural town I am sure most would say they want faster broadband. The thing is that BT has been under quite a bit of pressure to invest in the UK broadband infrastructure. Now what is to stop them saying that there is little demand in a vast amount of areas in the country because their competition didn’t reflect the true demand. I know some people were concerned that they were committing to buy the service which put them off as they prefer other ISP’s.  We all know statistics can be spun into all manner of results. I just hope this is not an elaborate stalling tactic.

The only thing our town can do is to wait and see if the near 500 people that registered an interest is enough to show there is at least a demand. Many rural areas of the country are eagerly awaiting services such as fibre to the cabinet as, unlike the cities or urban areas there is no fast broadband technology such as cable internet. Many people get a connection under 7mbit. Ofcom reports that the gap between advertised connection speed and actual speed is growing. On our local housing estate the average connection is under 4 mbit. Add in the factor of BT’s dynamic line management and the actual speed is often reduced even more, but that is a subject for another day…