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Businesses fight bandwidth blues

BT buckling under broadband demand, say firms

UK companies say their business is suffering because of a lack of broadband services, according to a report released today by the Communications' Management Association.

The report, which questioned over 550 senior communications professionals, contradicts statements by BT earlier this year that lack of demand was hampering rollout.

"Since January this year 5,000 exchanges have been opened for possible take up, but we simply haven't had the demand," David Orr, spokesman at BT told PC Advisor back in July. "From our point of view we have met every deadline but we can't make companies take up services."

Unfortunately Mr Orr was unavailable to give comment on his earlier statement.

According to the report, more than 70 percent of those questioned wanted broadband services and felt their business was suffering due to this unavailability.

"It is not to UK Plc's advantage that 'broadband for all' is still just a pipedream here in the UK," said John Wright, CMA chairman. "The likelihood that the UK will be Europe's number one country for e-business looks increasingly unlikely."

But just last week BT's chief executive Sir Peter Bonfield said, in a press conference at the Royal Academy of Engineering, that ADSL was widely available and again blamed lack of demand for slow rollout.

"If broadband is slow to take off, it is not because of blockages on the supply side. The focus of our attention therefore has to switch to demand," he said.

Slow rollout procedures certainly haven't damaged BT's position as the main supplier of business online services, up from a 14 percent market share last year to 22 percent.

The European Commission also released its review of the broadband market today, entitled The development of Broadband Access in Europe.

"What Europe needs now is a forward-thinking strategy to ensure that broadband internet comes quickly. IT will be one of our top priorities for 2002," said Erikki Liikanen European enterprise and information commissioner.

The report suggests subsidies should be considered to invest in broadband services in "less profitable regions" and added that the EC should maintain pressure on incumbents to unbundle local loops fully.

So it looks as though businesses could be waiting another year for EC pressure to push forward broadband rollout. The EC is going to have a tough job on its hands to meet its 2003 target of 17 million broadband subscribers.

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