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Investment from BT's rivals means better broadband deals for consumers

Friday, November 13th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

Investment by broadband providers other than BT will create better service and better prices for consumers, the head of a network co-operative has said.

Malcolm Corbett, CEO of the Independent Networks Co-operative Association (INCA) said investment in broadband infrastructure would “unleash” innovation.

“From our point of view, the big news is that there is investment coming into the independent sector,” Mr Corbett told Cable.co.uk.

He said INCA members had estimated that investment from companies other than BT Openreach – including Virgin Media and gigabit providers Hyperoptic, Gigaclear and CityFibre – could add up to nearly £9bn over the next decade.

“That has the ability then to create a very pro-competitive market where there’s multiple players investing to achieve a much better outcome for the UK over a 10-year investment period.”

Mr Corbett said INCA, which represents more than 55 alternative broadband suppliers, had been asked by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) to help work out the capacity of the independent sector, especially when it comes to more rural areas.

Responses from just 20 companies suggested they are already covering around 1.2m premises, he said.

“And over the next three to five years they estimate reaching 10m.

“Now that’s not just FTTP (fibre to the premises), that is fibre and wireless.

“It’s a good ambition for the independents and it demonstrates there is an appetite to invest and a capability there which is really useful.”

Mr Corbett said more investment and competition in improved broadband infrastructure will mean a better deal for consumers, and will promote innovation.

'New innovations'

“It’s going to mean better service and better prices.

“First generation broadband enabled a whole range of innovations we now take for granted like iPlayer, Netflix and all sorts of stuff that are just there and were enabled by the investment in infrastructure at that time.

“Our contention is that investment in new, much more capable, infrastructure with much higher capacity at really good prices is going to facilitate a whole range of new innovations in the same way as it always has done with the internet.”

Mr Corbett said local authorities that have put broadband rollout projects out to open tender rather than relying on BT were finding out that they were getting “far better value for money”.

Gigaclear has won three BDUK tenders, in Gloucestershire, Essex and West Berkshire, and pilot schemes funded the by the government have awarded funds to alternative providers such as Airwave and Cybermoor.

“So I think that more people are going to want to explore those sorts of options more than they have been hitherto.

“It’s a good time. In one sense, it’s been really challenging over the past few years because all the public money has been grabbed by BT and that therefore shapes the way that people think about it.

“But the independents have all grown despite that and they’re all building in spite of that.”

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