UK has dropped one place to 26th in global broadband race with an average download speed of 3.5Mbps according to the Akamai's ‘The State of the Internet (Q3-2009)’ report with Sweden in 5th place from European countries and South Korea sitting pretty as the fastest broadband in the world with an average speed of 14.8Mbps.
Why such highly unflattering results then for a country with a reputation for technological advancement? Old cables are an obvious answer with all broadband providers except Virgin Media utislising BT’s antiquated cooper infrastructure; technology that’s performance is dictated by distance from telephone exchange to premises and by the quality of the ageing copper.
Of course there have been positive developments in recent year with the advent of LLU and the quicker services and technologies they’ve contributed. However there are still many blackspots on Britain’s digital landscape, particularly in rural areas where a higher proportion of premises find themselves far from the exchange and where the commercial benefits of network development are not deemed higher enough for the big telcos to warrant investing.
A Fibre optic network would help propel UK speeds up to the levels of their international counterparts, but as anyone will know who has ever look at purchasing fibre privately, it comes at a cost. In order to assist in funding the roll-out of faster broadband the government have proposed (under the Digital Britain report) a fifty pence monthly tax on fixed landlines with the hope of delivering the next generation of super-fast broadband within reach of 10m homes, or about 40% of the population by 2012.
Although the way in which the Government plans to fund broadband development may not be to everyone’s taste (particularly the 3m households that don’t use the internet!) it’s evident that something needs to be done to improve the ailing state of the internet in the UK. Government promises to deliver super fast broadband within a few years look ambitious, particularly when considering the painfully slow rollout of BT’s 21 CN. But at least improving speeds is a subject now higher up the political agenda and this could represent the beginning of Britain’s climb up the broadband rankings.