BT's boss comes out fighting
When I dropped in to the BT headquarters opposite St Paul's Cathedral for a chat with the chief executive, I was expecting no more than a quick rundown on why the company's broadband product was so fabulous. I did indeed get that from Ian Livingston but I also got far more - a robust account of what was wrong with the Digital Economy Bill and an insistence that fast broadband would not reach across the whole country without some public money.
What Mr Livingston had to say will not make comfortable reading for Labour, the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats. On the bill, he was concerned that people were going to have their right to fair hearing in court taken away - that his customers could end up having their internet accounts suspended for alleged illegal file-sharing without due process. He proposed an alternative - a system of fines much like those imposed on speeding motorists, with the accused then choosing either to pay up or have their day in court.
Ian Livingston also joined other technology firm bosses in a letter to the Financial Times warning that an amendment put together last week by Liberal Democrat and Conservative peers had actually made the bill worse rather than better.
I met another of the letter's signatories last night who explained that in replacing a clause that might have meant a future government bringing in draconian powers to take down websites which infringed copyright, the peers had instead made that possible straight away. (You would of course get a rather different view from the creative industries. Later on Wednesday a study funded by the unions will argue that online piracy is costing the UK economy dear and the damage will be even more serious if action isn't taken soon.)
But back to Ian Livingston and his thoughts on broadband. He was keen first of all to impress upon me all sorts of statistics showing that when it comes to price and availability, broadband in the UK ranks among the best in the world. Of course that's not the case when it comes to speed, with investment in fast fibre networks really only just beginning.
Mr Livingston seemed clearer than some of his predecessors that there would be an appetite for ultra-fast broadband, showing me a demo where four simultaneous streams of HD video were arriving down a 40Mbps line. But was adamant that neither his company nor the market as a whole would be able to afford to bring fibre to all. "It's quite clear that if you look around the world," he told me, "that there is going to have to be some form of government intervention in terms of some form of support to help fund roughly a third of the country that won't get fibre in any other way."
That's not quite how the Conservatives see it - they appear confident that the market, coupled with a bit more regulatory pressure on BT, will bring fast broadband to most of Britain. If they form the next government, their relationship with the country's biggest broadband supplier could be prickly.
BT has appeared content in recent months to let Charles Dunstone of Carphone Warehouse grab the limelight when it comes to telling politicians what to think about technology policy. Now it seems Ian Livingston wants to make sure his voice is heard.