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Crunch time loom for BT's broadband plans

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Ben Verwaayen is facing his first real test as BT’s new CEO.

Two weeks ago he put his reputation on the line by declaring that he would "substantially" reduce the cost of broadband.

Many industry watchers sensed that this signalled a new direction for BT with its future strategy tied to broadband.

Which makes the imminent announcement by the Arsenal-supporting Verwaayen all the more intriguing.

If he gets it wrong then his honeymoon at BT could be cut short. Then he'll really begin to understand what it feels like to fill Sir Peter Bonfield’s shoes.

For Mr Verwaayen has to understand that it's not just about cost – but about availability too.

Alex Boag-Munroe, MD of Cheshire-based computer consultancy, Networking Ahead Limited, is one of many people who've contacted The Register over this issue.

"It's all very well cutting prices," he said, "but that makes no difference to people who still cannot get broadband services even if they wanted to.

"I have ADSL. I have a friend who lives a couple of miles from me, who cannot. He lives a five-minute walk away from a switch. However BT have not enabled this switch for ADSL and have not yet revealed when, if ever, they will."

BT has said that it won't roll-out broadband beyond the 1,000 or so exchanges currently enabled, unless it is commercially viable.

So while DSL is available to around 60 per cent of the population, four in ten people can't get it.

Yesterday, however, BT Retail boss Pierre Danon gave a glimpse of part of BT's strategy by calling on government and business to join a partnership to extend broadband coverage to more rural parts of the UK.

Danon pledged that the company would equip more exchanges with broadband technology if the public and private sectors were prepared to work together to stimulate awareness and demand to make further roll-out commercially viable.

Which is all well and good – but is this really what we are to expect from a company that would lead us all to believe that broadband is its "top priority"?

We shall see. ®

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