MANY of Britain’s businesses are suffering from woefully poor fibre optic broadband penetration, according to the new chief executive of TalkTalk.
Tristia Harrison made the comments as she visited Yorkshire, to see work start on the second phase of TalkTalk’s ultra fibre optic broadband network, which will become available to nearly 55,000 homes and business across York over the next two years.
Ms Harrison, who became CEO in May, said: “The volume of internet traffic is set to double every two years and the UK is far behind many other developed countries in regards to fibre to the home or premises coverage.
“Broadband needs to be treated as a fourth ‘utility’ with sufficient capacity to allow data to flow at the volume, speed and reliability required to meet the demands of modern life. This is the approach we are taking in York.”
She added: “The UK is woefully penetrated in terms of fibre to the premise take up. We all have a collective responsibility to really try and make a difference.”
TalkTalk cited data which shows that Portugal and Spain have fibre to the premises coverage of between 50 and 60 per cent, while the UK’s coverage is just two per cent.
Ms Harrison said York had been chosen for the new broadband network because of its “very progressive council” and it also has a good spread of small businesses and home workers.
York’s ultra fibre optic network has already been installed in an initial pilot towards the north of the city, and is currently available to 15,000 homes and businesses across Rawcliffe, Clifton, Huntington, New Earswick and parts of the Groves.
Ms Harrison visited a site in Dringhouses, near York, with Coun David Carr, the leader of York City Council, where work has begun on the second phase of the project to reach another 40,000 homes and businesses in York over the next two years.
The first homes and premises in this next stage will be connected early next year.
Ms Harrison added: “York’s ultra fibre optic project is a really important project for TalkTalk and York is an ideal size and type of city to test a cost effective method of building full fibre network.
“We’re delighted to be starting the next phase to bring the most advanced internet technology available, at an affordable price to homes and businesses across the city.”
Coun Carr added: “This investment is transforming York’s digital landscape, providing better quality and value for residents and creating new opportunities for businesses.
“It will undoubtedly help to create new jobs and attract investment by making York an enviable business destination.”
The network is installed using a narrow trenching system. A digger makes a 15cm channel in the pavements along the streets that are being connected.
Engineers then dig a small trench to the homes or businesses that want to be connected to the new network.
TRISTIA Harrison became TalkTalk’s CEO in May, replacing Dido Harding, who stepped down after seven years at the telecoms firm.
Ms Harrison, who was previously managing director of TalkTalk’s consumer division, said she wanted to encourage more women to take up senior roles in technology.
In the UK, just 27 per cent of those employed in the digital industries are women.
Ms Harrison said: “It starts with education; making the topics accessible and interesting. Technology and connectivity doesn’t need to be dull. A connected world is incredibly exciting and should be accessible to everybody.”