Rupert Goodwins' diary

Tuesday 10/04/2001Judo's great. Find your opponent's strength, and use it against them.

10/04/2001 Judo's great. Find your opponent's strength, and use it against them. That way, the biggest of bullies -- let's say, oh, BT -- can find themselves on the floor before they've finished their gut-gurgling roars of defiance. Today's problem is that people still aren't getting online with broadband in large numbers -- which is bad, because it's stifling the next stage in developing the online world. Why not? Because telcos are still desperately reluctant to let people do this cheaply and easily, because it ruins their existing market. However, when we look at BT -- whose reluctance to unbundle the local loop and open up proper broadband competition has led to today's announcement of twenty five companies withdrawing from the process -- we find that their existing market has left them hideously in debt and scrabbling around for a few billion here, a few billion there to stay intact. So, let's use that monopoly. Introduce a universal service obligation and say that, while it doesn't matter how it's done, anyone subscribing to telephone service is entitled as part of that service to have a broadband option at a reasonable price. You want to run a telco? Fine. Telephones now include unmetered IP. BT, as the effective monopoly service provider, would have to sort itself out sharpish. The easiest way would be for BT to encourage others to provide that aspect of its obligation -- selling off the rights at a sensible price to a competitive marketplace. Universal service has its problems, but the upsides are tremendous. Especially when faced with universal recalcitrance.