"I can't get cable or DSL to my house," Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer told an audience of Microsoft professionals in London on Monday. "I live in an affluent neighbourhood, six minutes from downtown Seattle, and I can't get it." So users in the UK who can't get fast Internet access are at least in good company. One might have thought that someone of Ballmer's stature could afford a leased line on his expense account, or buy a small telco to provide coverage, but Ballmer said he has been personally begging the heads of AT&T and Qwest to no avail. Ballmer was asked what can be done to help broadband rollout in general, and what Microsoft has done. He responded that Microsoft had done its best to promote broadband in the UK: "We invested in Telewest and ntl and it cost us a boatload of money!" Asked what could be done to improve the availability of broadband access, he said we need "good old-fashioned competition". In Japan, he said, a change in regulations had provoked an increase in broadband from a standing start to four million users in 18 months. Germany's Deutsche Telekom also "gets it" as regards the rollout of broadband, said Ballmer. Other countries will follow when their telecoms operators "get it", he said. In the meantime, he said his wife wants a wireless LAN in the home, and he won't do that until the house has broadband.