BT boss slates 'copper Luddites' over fibre optic criticism

The chief executive of BT, Ian Livingston, has hit out at others in the telecoms industry - including Charles Dunstone - for being 'copper Luddites' who want to hold back fibre-optic progress 'for their own commercial reasons'.

by Michael Northcott
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

Whenever there’s something disruptive happening in technology, you can expect some of the biggest voices in the industry to start scrapping with each other. After all, when big changes come along, someone often loses out. Today, it’s about fibre-optic cable for people’s broadband connections. 

BT have been pushing through some extremely rapid development on this in recent years, with a  lot of help from the government. Livingston says that BT’s rivals, such as the Carphone Warehouse’s founder and chairman Charles Dunstone, do not want to see BT get traction with fibre optic as they are ‘not prepared to invest in fibre themselves’.

His comments come just a couple of weeks after Dunstone, whose company owns TalkTalk, said that there should be greater regulatory involvement to make sure that BT is not getting a head start with the technology thanks to unfair state help.

He said: ‘We need to regulate fibre – and to check where the [public] money is going. There is so much government money going into subsidising higher broadband speeds but no-one really knows where it is going and how it is being spent.’ 

The chief executive of Dunstone’s TalkTalk, Dido Harding, got behind the comments, saying that regulations ‘to ensure that the Government’s investment delivers value for money rather than just funding a monopoly provider’ were needed.

But BT’s Livingston hit back with a rebuttal in the Telegraph over the weekend. He said: ‘These criticisms are coming from people I can only describe as copper Luddites. They don’t want to see the UK getting fibre. BT fibre is open to any provider in the UK on the same terms as BT – there are 50 or 60 of them, that’s not what I call a monopoly.’

He added that competitors are: ‘trying to stop the fibre programme so they can sweat their own copper assets. They are not prepared to invest in fibre. It's a shame they want to hobble the UK economy for their own commercial reasons.’

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