100 Mb/s Britain. The emperor has no clothes

Posted by Karen on Mar 15, 2010 12:00:00 AM
There has been much discussion recently about the best way of ensuring that 100 Mb/s of broadband can be delivered to two thirds of UK homes by 2017. When BT announced that it was working with OFCOM to facilitate this, the Conservative party announced that it would make BT break up and divert BBC license revenue to make it happen. The blogs and discussion rooms went into overdrive, opining on the best way to make this happen. The contributors were almost fanatical in their support of the initiative, but  absence of serious questioning about why this 100Mb/s has become a national priority and a political football is mystifying. Four months earlier, the same bulletin boards were filled up with posts re the outputs of Carters Broadband Britain. Essentially, a 2 Mb/s service to every home is desirable for economic and social reasons. The rest of Europe reached similar conclusions. It’s worth considering just what are the uses for 100 Mb/s to the home? Illegal downloads and gaming appear to be the mainstay of high bandwidth consumption, everywhere from South Korean game-obsessed teenagers through to the academic confines of the UK’s dedicated educational network. Very few applications need this type of bandwidth to perform. Certainly not socially useful ones such as telemedicine or distance learning. The applications to consume this bandwidth are likely to be on-demand HD TV and Video telepresence. In a house full of six individuals, all running separate applications, then 100 Mb/s could theoretically be required. Can we suggest that using government tax revenue to fund such ‘progress’ deflects resources from the mundane and fiddly technical projects of getting 2Mb/s to every household in the UK? Let Google experiment, let BT, Sky, Talk Talk, Virgin squabble over bringing 100 Mb/s entertainment services to metropolitan areas where they will make money but let’s give our tax spend to making sure elderly couples in Scotland aren’t charged £45,000 to get 2Mb/s. A clear lead on this matter is required from OFCOM.
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