an open letter to Martha Lane Fox

By in general, management, mobile, products, strategy on Wednesday, 9 March 2011

My apologies for this deviation from my usual style. But we need some help. A lot. Not for some worthy charity, but for a nation.
Can Martha Lane Fox show the kind of drive needed to create a true digital Britain?
Britain is being dragged deep under water by BT, after we survived the shipwreck caused by the SS Banking’s collision with a financial reality iceberg.

We must divorce BT from the cosy relationship it enjoys with central government. Its smug monopoly on the mechanism for change, its incompetence.

We need a publicly revered figurehead to drive this forward. A digital Joan d’Arc. Martha, we need you.

The battle for a joined up Great Britain

Great Britain used to lead. With the first postal service, the first telegraph network. Communications – like railways, tarmaced roads. A Briton invented the Internet.

And all it takes is a bungling bureaucracy to stop it all. BT.

BT inherited – it never created – the UK phone network. the Post Office built that. And it all went downhill from there.

The UK was one of the last countries to adopt broadband. We even charged more for phone calls in the morning than the afternoon. BT has always protected its revenues and broadband threatened that.

BT persuaded the government that it was the only one capable of owning the phone exchanges, thereby holding on to control of the final mile to our homes.

BT is protecting itself once again. Its protecting its cash-cow leased line services. Broadband costs around £120 per year, a leased line a hundred times that.

BT doesn’t value its broadband service – you’ll get no compensation for its loss.

The big fibre con trick

BT runs networks using ancient copper-paired cables. Some of these date back to before the Second World War and have been degrading and failing for years. Replacing copper with fast, efficient fibre is essential.

But BT cites cost for the reason for the slow upgrade to fibre. But this isn’t true.

Plastic fibre cables are cheaper than the equivalent copper. They can carry more consumers per run and are infinitely cheaper to maintain.

BT would even retrieve some of the upgrade cost from the rising commodity value of the ripped-out copper it sold!

Declaring a state of emergency for Digital Britain

Britain is once again fighting for its survival. Against a global market far better equipped for battle. Like Korea and China with one-Gigabit services.

Make no mistake about it. This is a war as dangerous as any we’ve ever fought. Britain needs to be equipped to fight. We need to have the weapons to win.

Commandeer the network – push out BT

If BT won’t do it, take the option away from them. Provide free, unfettered access to the exchanges. Let whoever can provide end to end services provide them. Give everyone broadband as a right and high speed broadband for a fair price.

Martha – you know how important good communications were to your business. Now its time to expand that nationwide. Time to build a true Digital Britain.

2 thoughts on “an open letter to Martha Lane Fox

  1. 1

    Agreed. BT can go to hell. All they’ve ever offered is faster horses.

  2. 2

    I think the Henry Ford reference is an apt one, Tricia!

    Rather than go for revolutionary change all we get is incremental shifts – factors of 10 speed changes rather than the mega-shifts the technology around it deserves.

    Protectionism is rarely justified in any of its guises – and sure not when it involves one-step-removed-from-the-state utilities like BT.

    Much as I support UK industries – this is one where I’d love the Koreans to come and push BT’s nose out of joint – just as long as AT&T don’t come in first…

    The Americans situation is too similar to ours by half!