Broadband at risk over new congestion law

Road to hell

New traffic congestion measures currently working their way through the parliamentary process could damage the future progress of broadband in the UK.

So say the bosses of telcos Thus, Kingston Communications, Cable & Wireless, BT and Colt, who wrote to the FT yesterday warning that proposals contained in the Government's Traffic Management Bill could hit the roll-out of broadband.

So far, many of the headlines concerning the bill have focused on news that traffic wardens are to be given greater powers to fine drivers for minor motoring offences.

Yet telcos are concerned that the new legislation - which include charging telcos for carrying out street works and increased fines for delays in digging up roads - "fails to recognise the critical importance of broadband communications to businesses and the UK economy".

While the telcos are not against legislation that would ease traffic congestion, they believe the new measures simply go too far.

"Unless the government balances the competing needs of road transport and e-commerce, it risks undermining the UK's economic growth and international competitiveness," said the chief execs.

They went on: "Adding to the burden of regulation will increase our costs, but will not make us work more efficiently. If the Traffic Management Bill does reduce the impact of street works, it will do so at heavy cost: street works will simply not take place, and businesses will remain unconnected to the high speed services on which they will increasingly rely for international competitiveness."

Indeed, they argue that far from regulating against telcos and their need to dig up roads to maintain their communications networks, broadband (and its ability for people to work from wherever rather that commute) could actually be "part of the solution for congestion reduction not part of the problem".

"The sooner the Department for Transport recognises this, the greater the positive contribution the telecoms industry can make," they said. ®

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