BT says there is no business case for the rollout of ubiquitous Fibre to the Premises (FTTP broadband). I believe it.
The government says there is a business case for HS2 rail link between London and Birmingham (and beyond1). I probably believe it. After all according to Justine Greening, the Transport Secretary, “HS2 will deliver four pounds of benefit for every additional pound spent compared to a new conventional-speed line, as well as driving regeneration, creating jobs and providing our country with the infrastructure we need to compete in the 21st century.” It must be true.
It will also no doubt save the Irish economy as gangs of ‘Navigationals’ return to the English countryside to “earn a bob” but that is another story.
I’m not aware that anyone has put much effort into a business case for ubiquitous FTTP broadband. I can see why BT wouldn’t bother. The amount we (the nation) are willing to pay for our broadband won’t make it compute. This isn’t BT’s business case to assemble. It belongs to UK PLC.
What we have ended up with is a cobbled together short to mid term programme to roll out Next Generation Access to most of us with a 2Meg bone chucked over the farm fence to the others. What we need is something that tells the government “FTTP will deliver x pounds of benefit for every additional pound spent by BDUK on the NGA project”. Simples innit!?
Problem is we don’t have the number. Is there anyone out there who can help us fill in the details? HS2 is a long term plan. FTTP would be an infrastructure for the long term so it doesn’t have to rely on near term assumptions as who how much bandwidth people “actually need” (remember BT’s CEO Ian Livingston and his “nobody needs more than 2Mbps”).
The HS2 business case almost certainly relied on some expensive consultancy time. I don’t have any money. What I do have is millions2 of informed people reading this blog who are able to chip in. I’m assuming Caio’s £29Bn as a base cost for FTTP (any reduction on that number should be taken as a bonus downstream). BDUK has £530m to spend with a top up after this parliament. I’m going to be generous and call it £1Bn – add in matched funding by the regions and then BT matching that total and we come up with a number of £4Bn.
The delta cost of FTTC is therefore £25Bn. This number doesn’t sound right anymore because I’m sure that I’ve heard the figure of FTTP = 3 x FTTC but that probably doesn’t include rolling it out to the last 10% of dwellings.
Sticking with the £25Bn then we are looking for a return of £100Bn, long term, to match the business case for universal FTTP. Let’s not worry too much about the fact that advances in technology (video conferencing, home working etc) were not considered in the HS2 business case – probably for the same reasons that there isn’t a similar document for FTTP broadband.
1 said with a Buzz Lightyear voice
2 remember I said I’m thinking long term here:)