At last. Broadband communications are to take a massive step forward in this country with Oftel's decision last week to open the local loop to competition in 2001. In response to Oftel, and pressure from politicians, consumers and industry, BT has agreed to accelerate the roll-out of ADSL services. At last.
BT has dragged its feet on ADSL shamefully and culpably up to now. Not wishing to cannibalise its ISDN and leased line services, the company has procrastinated and delayed, complaining about the difficulty of setting up trials and the immaturity of the technology while extending its own window of opportunity to sell higher-price services to businesses and consumers desperate for greater capacity in their connections to the Net.
BT has been orchestrating trials of ADSL technology since 1994. Last year, the company said the technology could flower into actual services before the end of 1998. In January, PC Week forced the firm to admit that a further six-month delay would see roll-out postponed to this July. Then, the firm blamed the difficulty of coordinating all the suppliers involved in the trial. Earlier this month, we asked BT again about the status of ADSL - only to be told that the company would not release a timetable until later this year.
What arrogance! With businesses and consumers clamouring for higher-speed and lower-cost Internet access, BT stood in our way for its own profit, taking advantage of the legacy of public ownership that gave it almost exclusive rights over the local loop.
The freeing up of the telecoms market and the break-up of state-run monopolies was supposed to open up competition and spur companies to bring new technologies to market faster and at a lower price. BT's delaying tactics reveal how ex-monopolies can continue to use their old advantages to their own profit-making ends.
BT did not take this decision of its own volition. The company's hand was forced by Oftel. Even now, BT has not given us the full facts. We have to wait until August for information on pricing and a date for nationwide roll-out.
ADSL is not just a clever piece of technology for techies to drool over.
It is vital to UK economic success, as it will accelerate the growth of e-commerce by giving consumers the bandwidth to have a constant Internet connection at a low price.
At last UK e-commerce might have a chance of catching up with the US, for the good of all of us.
Cotton seedling freezes to death as Chang'e-4 shuts down for the Moon's 14-day lunar night
Fortnite easily out-earns PUBG, Assassin's Creed Odyssey and Red Dead Redemption 2 in 2018
Meteor showers as a service will be visible for about 100 kilometres in all directions
Saturn's rings only formed in the past 100 million years, suggests analysis of Cassini space probe data
New findings contradict conventional belief that Saturn's rings were formed along with the planet about 4.5 billion years ago