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Re:Viewing 2001: Broadband - how an industry nearly unbundled itself

"BTopenworld has a range of secret projects that they're not allowed to tell us about, all named after snakes. It's the Alice Cooper school of corporate strategy."
Written by Ben King, Contributor on

"BTopenworld has a range of secret projects that they're not allowed to tell us about, all named after snakes. It's the Alice Cooper school of corporate strategy."

Still waiting for the broadband revolution? Ben King takes a whistle-stop tour through the past 12 months and tries not to get depressed. No-one in the technology business had a good time in 2001 but the broadband industry in particular has been tied over a DSLAM and flogged with a length of low grade copper access cable. Some telecoms companies just went out of business. Others simply went into denial - dropping the telecom part of their name and pretending to be a newsagent until the horror is over. For BT, which dropped most of the word telecom years ago, it's been an annus horribilis of vintage quality. Fox hunting may have been suspended but the old sport of incumbent telco bashing remains, like darts and snooker, a sport at which the Brits can still compete with the best of them. Behind the scenes, however, things rolled slowly on. About 100,000 people have broadband via ADSL now, slightly more do so through cable modem services, prices have fallen slightly and choice has increased. But there have been traumas along the way. February: The 'local loop droop troop' swells to the size of an army as numerous telecoms operators wake up, smell the coffee and then abandon the idea of trying to put their own broadband equipment into BT's exchanges. By the autumn, there are only two left.
http://www.silicon.com/a44117 April: One of many surveys is published, showing the UK as the dunce sitting at the back of the broadband class.
http://www.silicon.com/a43641 Also in April (the cruellest month?): BT boots out the old chairman, Sir Iain Vallance, and replaces him with Sir Christopher Bland. We were snide at the time, as you would expect when the chief of one company we love to hate (but all secretly want to work for) moved to another company we love to hate. Nonetheless, he seems to have done quite a good job so far.
http://www.silicon.com/a44087 July: BT Wholesale dropped its prices for ADSL by £5. Good news for customers? You'd have thought so. But BTopenworld, which sells Wholesale's service on to the punter, decided that the extra fiver would look better in its own pocket than the punters'.
http://www.silicon.com/a46096 July (and you thought the summer was quiet): A consortium called Earthlease fittingly chose the height of the silly season to try and buy the local loop. Seeing as the local loop is about the only business BT is good at, they decided to hang on to it.
http://www.silicon.com/a46102 August: Zen Internet, Freedom2Surf, PlusNet and others began to pass the earlier ADSL savings on to the consumer. Not so BT, who still reckoned ADSL was too cheap.
http://www.silicon.com/a46229 On a personal note, BT DSL was finally delivered to this reporter six weeks late after a long and bloody customer service nightmare. It was worth it, though, and it's lucky it still crashes from time to time or he would never leave the house.
http://www.silicon.com/a48989 September: Saw the launch of satellite broadband in the UK. Cedar Telecom led the pack, with BT and others not far behind.
http://www.silicon.com/a47619 Back down here on earth, though, things weren't going so well. The local loop unbundling process actually went into reverse, after one of the players went bust.
http://www.silicon.com/a47656 October: Join the party, bring your own modem... BT launches the next generation of DSL services, where users get to buy their own modems. And it's cheaper than buying it from BT. And you don't have to have one of those blue Alcatel ones that look like an anglerfish.
http://www.silicon.com/a48543 Still in October: One of the most bizarre stories of the year - details leak about BTopenworld's Project Boa, a sinister-sounding plot to constrict (geddit?) the bandwidth available to users of bandwidth hungry file swapping applications like Morpheus and KaZaA. It turns out BTopenworld has a range of secret projects that they're not allowed to tell us about, all named after snakes. It's the Alice Cooper school of corporate strategy.
http://www.silicon.com/a48257 November: Complementary cable companies NTL and Telewest announce that for all the broadband woes in the UK, uptake of their high-speed services hasn't been half bad. A timely slap on the wrist for those who think of broadband Britain purely in terms of ADSL. We contrasted Telewest's blueyonder with ADSL from, you guessed it, BT.
http://www.silicon.com/a48991 December: The man who saw Lucent through the traumatic loss of their private golf course is brought in as BT chief. Ben Verwaayen will need every drop of Dutch courage he can muster and BT will probably sell off more than a golf course over the next year.
http://www.silicon.com/a49907
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