Douglas Carswell

12 NOV 2015

Broadband and rail need competition, not nationalisation

How fast is your broadband? Vodafone claims it sells much faster broadband in Portugal, Spain, and Italy than consumers can access in the UK. Why? Because here, BT has a virtual monopoly.

In most of Britain, if you want broadband, you need to go through BT. Even if you buy it through another company, you'll most likely still be using BT's cables, because BT owns the only national network. Consumers have no real choice at all.

BT's monopoly is a big reason why many people find their Internet so slow. Most of BT's network is outdated copper cable. Even where fast fibre-optic cables have been installed, connections to individual houses and offices are still copper. But what incentive does BT have to upgrade its infrastructure? It has no competition.

The railways have the same problem. Like BT, Network Rail owns the only national network. There is no competition to drive down the cost of the infrastructure. Costs to consumers keep going up, but service stays slow.

Think the problem is privatisation? Think the solution is to nationalise our infrastructure?

Network Rail is a public monopoly: the rail network was never properly privatised, even as Railtrack - a supposedly private business. Dependent on government fiat and finance, Railtrack/Network Rail has morphed into becoming a branch of the State. BT is a private monopoly made possible by a heavily regulated telecom market, rigged by the State. Nationalisation isn't the solution; it's the problem.

The real solution is to break the monopolies. We need to think of ways to introduce competition, and give consumers a real choice. That might mean allowing other telecom companies to install their own fibre-optic cables along BT's routes. It might mean reuniting train and track, allowing both to be leased or bought together by a private operator.

Either way, if we keep restricting consumer choice, we'll only ensure that our infrastructure never gives us what we want.

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