BT pledges faster broadband for more people

BT makes new promises to improve broadband services - both the speed and availability.

BT CEO Gavin Patterson: 'We need regulatory and governmental support.' Image: BT
BT's chief executive Gavin Patterson has laid out plans to increase the availability of faster broadband services in the UK.

In particular Patterson said that BT would:

  • Tackle slow speeds in hard-to-reach parts of the country.
  • Achieve a step-change in speeds overall, with ultrafast rollout starting next year.
  • Improve customer service, through a number of commitments unveiled by Openreach.

Patterson committed BT to supporting government in delivering a new universal minimum broadband speed of five to 10Mbps, which he said should be enough for everyone in the UK to enjoy popular internet services like high definition video.

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Patterson also said BT wanted to go "further and faster" on fibre broadband rollout -- moving beyond government's current 95 percent target for fibre availability -- thanks to 'success dividend' clauses in contracts covering rollout co-funded by BT, Whitehall, and local councils. This means BT has to reinvest or return money if take-up exceeds certain levels in areas where public funds have been used. A sum of £130m is already being released and is potentially available to get the UK closer to having fibre available at 96 percent of premises.

The telco chief also said BT's new broadband service of 300 to 500Mbps would reach 10 million homes and smaller businesses by the end of 2020 -- the majority within a decade.

But BT could not do this on its own, he said, and he emphasised "the need for a supportive regulatory and government policy environment to bring about a commercially viable investment".

The pledges come as BT's rivals have called for the company to be broken up, claiming its broadband customer service is not good enough. BT could be required to split off its Openreach broadband network access company, under a review being conducted by telecoms watchdog Ofcom.

Further Reading:

Hong Kong leading the way on digital government

Reality check: Billions still lack internet access

In-flight Wi-Fi comes to Europeans next year


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