Government's ‘final third’ superfast broadband solution is 'Westminster myth' says ex-BT manager

By Peter Gothard
14 Sep 2012 View Comments

An ex BT programme manager has branded the government's plans – and BT's part in them – to have superfast broadband available to 90 per cent of the UK by 2015 a "Westminster myth", accusing those in charge of trying to base "internet age" policy on a regulatory system based on "1930s copper telephone lines".

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Lorne Mitchell, who now spearheads a local broadband scheme in the village of Goudhurst in Kent, made the damning comments at Tuesday's Broadband Britain Westminster eForum in London.

Mitchell explained how he lives in an area which he described as "a sea of no plans", for communications exchange upgrades, and so was forced to present the Kent village's case to the House of Lords select committee.

"We as a parish did quite well in the first rollout of broadband about 10 years ago," said Mitchell.

"BT came and opened our exchange and upgraded it with a great hoorah, and we've been staggering on with that stuff for about eight or nine years."

But since then, said Mitchell, the area around Goudhurst has maintained a cluster of grey "no plans" icons on future progress maps for superfast rollout.

"I find these maps fascinating," said Mitchell, "because people put up national maps, and there's red bits and blue bits, and you try and work out where you live but you can never quite work out what colour you are."

"Down at [village] level, it's still like a national picture," Mitchell continued. "We have the green bits that get 8Mbit/s – in the villages – and served by three exchanges, but there are red bits where we get 1.5Mbps. And the reason I get that is because I'm so far from the exchange, despite UK Broadband saying it runs out from the cabinet for a kilometre. It's a myth."

Mitchell explained that he estimated Goudhurst lies in the "final five per cent" of the "final third", and often has to suffer speeds of 0.1Mbit/s or, at times "absolutely nothing at all."

"This is rural Kent – 60 miles from the centre of London," said Mitchell. "So this whole Westminster myth needs to be put under the spotlight, because there's a lot of rubbish being talked in this industry."

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