Broadband in the news
There has been a huge amount of coverage around the state of the UK’s broadband this week.
It has been focussed around two specific areas : firstly, the speed and state of the broadband within the Uk and also whether improving it, could help the country in fighting the global and national recession.
Let’s look at the first point:
The average speed of a broadband connection in the UK is 3.6Mbps (megabits per second) according to new research from regulator Ofcom.
This is unsurprising and depressing reading, for two reasons. One, 3.6Mps is SLOW compared to many other countries, including Sweden where I saw 89Mps up and 82Mps down in November, and left me reeling. Secondly, with the VAST majority, if not all ISPs advertising 8Mps lines, for example, they rarely, if ever deliver that. (Read the full article here).
Honesty and transparency is something that ISPs really need to include within their dictionaries. It was good to see this from the Ofcom Chief Executive:
Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards described the study as “the most comprehensive assessments of consumers’ broadband experiences to date”. He issued a warning to ISPs. “We want to see all internet service providers meet the needs of their customers by clearly explaining what speeds they should expect and by ensuring that their networks meet consumers’ increasing demand for higher speed broadband,” he said.
There is a huge need for clear communication and guess what? Of course there is a need for faster speed, not only from consumers, but also businesses. This brings me on the second area: could an investment in the UK Digital infrastructure rejuvenate the country? The BBC’s article here, makes interesting reading, and I am hoping, praying, that there is some truth in this.
After the depression of the 1920s, US president Roosevelt started a public works programme which saw billions of dollars pumped into a series of projects, including the building of roads, airports and dams in an effort to reignite the economy.
In the UK there are increasingly loud rumblings that a similar thing is needed in the UK, with a superfast broadband infrastructure a prime candidate for cash.
Finally someone is seeing some sense:
“It would be easy to see broadband as an expensive luxury in difficult times but it is encouraging that Gordon Brown has recognised that investment in the broadband infrastructure could provide long-term benefits to productivity,” said Antony Walker, chief executive of the Broadband Stakeholders Group.
This nails it for me, an increase in productivity – better for people, better for small and large businesses, encouraging creativity, web-based investment for startups and ideas. Just what the UK needs right now. David Cameron made a very good point, and one I had not really considered before:
…that the long term benefits of such a technology, which allows for upload and download speeds of up to 100Mbps (megabits per second), could facilitate a new era of teleworking which in turn could reduce the traffic on our roads.
This hugely encouraging, and to be honest, any party who is going to be leading the country in the future must make this a reality. Rory Cellan Jones has also been writing about this topic over on his BBC blog, and points out that BT and Virgin are probably the only big players who could take a fibre network across the Uk. This makes sense, but from a very personal, and geographic perspective, where does that leave Hull with it’s ‘unique’ telecoms offering. This is a major topic, and one we are starting to investigate and discuss more and more over at Hull Digital.
Whatever happens, this is not a short term project. There will need to be some serious decisions in the short term, but make no mistake, the implications are long term, and it needs to be closely followed in 2009. The UK is in dire need of the next generation of digital networks, but to be honest, it is not even the next generation – there are plenty of countries who for them, fibre has been standard for years. Once again, we are playing catch up, and we need to get FTTH (fibre to the home), just to be on a level playing field. The call must go out, that this HAS to happen and soon.
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