Q&A: Matt Cantwell, head of Demon UK

We talk British broadband with the head of one of the leading business providers in the UK.

I think potentially in the past it did do when you had BT being so dominant, and in the wholesale market as well. There has always been a decent bit of competition in the retail market but in the wholesale market it wasn't quite as good.

You are now seeing 95 per cent plus being owned by the top seven providers and the majority of that market is in the consumer space. We are not in that consumer space, we really focus on businesses, and they are going to go in a very different direction to us.

There is a lot of competition now though. Prices have gone down, speeds have gone up and it is very innovative. But in the business market it might go a slightly different way.

I think business people are more interested in precisely how their connection works. They will be looking at guarantees on performance, quality of the customer service, on service level agreements (SLAs). Rather than looking at what kind of entertainment is bundled in the service, they will be looking at what business software will be bundled or productivity tools. Perhaps communications packages could be offered.

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How important is it that everybody gets 2Mbps as the Government has pledged?

I speak to customers quite a lot who phone me up and say can you help us out, we have tried phoning BT but we still can't get fast internet in our village, is there anything you can do?

As an organisation there is very little we can do as it costs us more money to put equipment in that local exchange than we would ever get back from the amount of customers that would be prepared to pay for it.

But I think again and again it has been proven that access to quality internet access is just such a massive boost for business that there is definitely a role for Government supporting telcos providers to make sure as many people as possible have got access to good quality broadband.

However, it is difficult to say who is most sort of deserving. Should the Government be spending money to enable a nice wealthy village in Sussex to get as high quality broadband as you would get in central Manchester?

Perhaps that is not very high on Government priorities, but if it is helping a rural community to create jobs and keep people in that rural community then I have to say that is a really important role for Government to play in supporting that.

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I think you do see it happening. Local councils work with providers to make sure that people in their areas have got access. We have worked on things with the North West Development agency and there is a lot going on in Cornwall to ensure that rural areas will get access. So it does go on, it is just slowly.

But I definitely very strongly feel it is a benefit to see everyone in the UK being able to get high speed internet access.

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