BT is never a company that's shy of promoting itself.
It launched 2007 with a press release announcing that it had passed 10 million broadband connections, doubling its own target of five million by the end of 2006 - a target that BT itself claims was "viewed as highly ambitious at the time". The company also boasts that it now offers broadband to 99.8 percent of households. A big slap on the back for BT then - and it's certainly grabbed plenty of favourable coverage for the company.
But let's look a bit more closely at those figures: are 10 million broadband connections really something to shout about? That's nearly 40 percent of all households, at first site an impressive figure but a penetration rate that according to Analsys,is surpassed by seven European countries. The UK is about equal to France, which has a much larger rural population to deal with. It's a good effort but certainly not great.
Is it worth boasting that the company had doubled its 2006 target? Well, BT might have thought that target was ambitious but it certainly wasn't widespread. In early 2003, Forrester Research predicted that 9.5m households would have broadband by 2008, so BT is about a year ahead of that prediction. Again, BT's effort is a good one - but not great.
But it's the 99.8 percent figure that's really glaring. At first sight, that implies that nearly everyone in the country apart from a few gogs in rural Wales and some choochters in the Highlands could get connected if they wanted to but this is arrant nonsense. There are thousands of people living in urban communities who can't get ADSL: I should know, I'm one of them. I don't live in a remote farmhouse or a village but in a large estate in a city, however BT can't offer me a broadband service. But even Londoners aren't immune, yesterday a friend informed that she can't have broadband from BT even though she lives just a couple of miles from the City. Nor are some residents of Bolton impressed impressed with BT's promises.
In some ways, BT is a tempting target. They still hold a powerful hold on all of the UK comms infrastructure and when you're a company of that size, it's easy to mock. But when a company sends out vainglorious boasting of its achievements when it could really be doing so much better, then that company deserves a few brickbats thrown its way.
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