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Monday, 9 November 2009

Why 2Mbps simply is not enough

We have got to come back to this AGAIN.

If we bang on about it enough, those responsible for sorting out this country's infrastructure have got to sit up and take notice. After all, if you are an ISP, these are potential customers you are missing out on and if you are government, these are taxes and revenue you are losing. If you are an RDA, a local council, an MP - can you really ignore your constituents forever on this issue?

Back in June, according to the FSB, their research showed that a third of small businesses already have 2Mbps. Here's the important bit though....
...yet struggle to do core, day-to-day business activities

FSB goes on to state...
By 2012, £1 in every £5 will come from online commerce

The USC or USO, whichever side of that particular fence you sit on, of 2Mbps is going to hit our economy HARD if businesses are unable to conduct business online to their maximum capabilities. The reality though is that it is hitting us hard, NOW.

I know that my broadband has been insufficient to run my business since the exchange was enabled. Because I run a digital business, until I get fibre (at the very least to the street cab), the poverty of the broadband will restrict the earning potential of my business. I need symmetry and SPEED, as do thousands and thousands of other small, rural businesses.

We are not ignorant muppets leaping on a bandwagon and claiming we need the equivalent of other countries because it seems to be the done thing to do. We KNOW we need far better broadband to run our businesses. We know HOW it needs to be delivered, and, in some cases, we know WHAT actually needs doing, physically and financially.

We are often ignored. Too few of us to speak out and get the reality of this situation through to those who can solve the problems. Well, the numbers are growing and growing. How long can you ignore these voices??

The telcos keep telling us there is no economic case, but come put FTTH to my home office and see how much I'm willing to pay. In all these years, none of you have ever actually asked me, so I can guess you haven't asked others who are crying out for decent broadband. BT just announced out of the blue there was no call for SDSL but who was asked??! The shareholders p'raps? Telcos have said for years there is no demand for super high speed all singing all dancing broadband, but that is blatantly untrue when so many column inches of the press are currently taken up with articles and comments from the public on the subject. Ditto Twitter, conferences, pub conversations, websites, fora, etc etc etc.

The government seems to be ignoring everyone on the USO issue and fibre - why? Do they really think this country can operate effectively with a mere 2Mbps asymmetrical connection? Which in many cases won't even be that if the mobile operators are brought in to deliver rural and remote, and no effort is made to set up a reasonable mapping system that actually finds out the truth about what is available to every property in the UK. If we keep relying on the telcos to tell us what speeds are available and where, we will continue in the misinformation era we are currently in.

Who advised Carter that 2Mbps would be sufficient? No wonder he has done a runner TBH. And why is Timms, who previously seemed to be exhibiting signs of getting it, still stating that 2Mbps is the Government aim?

Back in January, Computer Weekly reported that "the long term future of the British economy may hinge on...[the Digital Britain report]"

The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta), a government quango, extrapolated South Korea's experience to suggest universal UK access to high speed broadband would create 600,000 jobs in information and communications technologies in four years, and boost GDP by £18bn.

How much evidence do the government and telcos need to get it? 2Mbps is not high speed. The copper can't deliver next gen broadband anywhere, let alone across the country - IT IS THE WRONG TOOL FOR THE JOB. Mobile wireless is not the right tool either for first choice broadband provision. We need fibre, we need a much higher bar for the USO, and we need informed thinking so those jobs are created and our GDP increased.

Seems to me that if we continue like this, the economy is going to lose phenomenal amounts of money and suffer more than it need to as the recession passes. We as a nation can only be yet further digitally excluded and I don't envy Martha Lane-Fox the task of sorting all of us out, but someone will need to.


NGA UK said...

The trouble with the USO is that it has be to set low so that it can be met. Remember it is essentially saying that every household and business in the UK must be able to receive at least the USO limit, from those in the farthest outreaches of the Yorkshire moors to those in central Birmingham.

I agree that for the majority it is not enough, but by the very nature of NGA it will be exceeded for the majority (assuming the majority have access to NGA which is another issue...). Is it fair to obligate service providers (and thereby to penalise them should they fail) to provide ubiquitous bandwidth?

Another point for consideration - 2M cannot be delivered on current infrastructure. That we know. Is it possible to put in place a new infrastructure to deliver broadband services without exceeding the USO? I would suggest not in which case let's push on the Digital Inclusion and not worry so much about the USO.

MB94128 said...

Two points :
1) In the U.S. firms regularly put up with the high price of a T-1 line (1.5+ mbps SDSL equiv.) for voice and data. My employer was doing this more than TEN YEARS AGO !
2) The weak backbone problem is easily solved. Just follow the model established fifteen to twenty years ago here in the U.S. Use the right-of-ways of pipelines and railroads for a fiber trunk. The global revival of rail transportation gives us a golden opportunity to also upgrade our cabling plants. Since the rail lines will tend to go from CBD to CBD that make it easier to tie into the switching centers. Plus, the trunks will add some incremental income to the mix.

CBD = Central Business District

Cybersavvy UK said...

@NGA_UK There are still pockets of people within the UK for whom the current USO is not being met, despite it being in existence for the last 28 years. There are also a growing number of people for whom the USO has now become such a burden for BT to deliver upon that uncalled for charges are being presented to consumers.

Setting the bar low for a USO which may take realistically 10+ years to meet in this country is pointless.

The USO is by its very nature NOT an NGA USO. It lacks ambition and fails to even begin to take into account that many of those who are currently struggling to get first gen broadband are those for whom that USO will likely not be met.

All that USO does is allow telcos to hide behind it for the future. It should be encouraging investment, innovation and future-proofed infrastructure. As it stands, it will achieve nothing positive.

The digital inclusion issue is of course more important but if the USO is set at that level, then the mobile operators will be the ones who endeavour to deliver digital inclusion into for instance rural areas, and likely fail. After all, if the USO was 100Mbps, they would be out of the picture from the word go, wouldn't they?

Cybersavvy UK said...

@MB94128 Your points are well made. Once again, I feel we need to return to the subject of the need for co-operation and education. The UK is still failing to encourage, let alone legislate, on the need to deploy NGA into new build, or when roads are dug up etc. Unless there is co-ordination of all those who own ducts, need access to them, have dark/lit fibre etc, we are unlikely to move forwards in a rush. This surely is a job for COTS?

Laying fibre along the railways, and using existing fibre ducts etc is utterly logical, and what many have been pursuing. (There will be a blog post about some of the issues faced which have recently come to our attention, shortly).

If you overlay a map of the railways and major trunk routes on top of, say, Point Topic or SamKnows maps of notspots, you would undoubtedly be amazed at how many of the notspots are within spitting distance of existing fibre. It is merely a matter of thinking out the (signal) box a little. (I have a proposal written some 6 years ago entitled Online OnLine about the use of railways for rural broadband connectivity....)

As for being willing to pay the cost as a business: in 1995, I investigated the costs for a T1 (E1 here in UK) to my business to be told £26,000 p.a.(let's say $45k for sake of argument). It is unlikely, given my propensity for donating much of my workday and most of my nights to the broadband cause, that this will ever be affordable for a small, rural business such as my own. Yes, I could relocate to a city, but how would I continue to fight the rural broadband corner without knowing, as I do, the intricacies of the problem first hand?!

The real problem is that, for many rural businesses, the backhaul costs are unforgiveably high. This is a massive issue that little noise is made about, and yet it is the one which causes many community networks to fail at the first hurdle, and many rural businesses to remain digitally excluded. There is no motive, other than corporate greed, for lines to still be priced by length.

Cyberdoyle said...

We run a small community network. Our inquiry to BT to supply it with a better connection (60meg for 180 households) came back with a quote of £64k plus costs for 1st year £64k for following years on 3 yr contract. Far too much for us to afford if we want to distribute it with ftth. We don't want to upgrade our wifi as we realise this isn't next gen. We want to lay fibre, but there is not much point if we can't have access to an affordable pipe.

Cyberdoyle said...

The reason we want to upgrade our network is because currently we have a 2 meg symmetrical feed. It was ok in 2004 but since the birth of youtube and iPlayer it just can't cope, and people trying to access eGov sites and others can't get a stable connection at peak times. It is a research network set up specifically for this purpose, and has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that 2megabit is not good enough.

MB94128 said...

To : Cybersavvy UK
$45kpa ? OUCH ! Thanks to competition and location (near the Millbrae, CA exchange IIRC) my employer paid around $15kpa per line in the late 1990's (1997 ? 1998 ?). Even though that's a third of what you were facing my boss and I thought it was somewhat steep but necessary. The business lived or died depending on our voice and data connections. We also had a high-minutes, long-distance plan which gave us some leverage with our provider.

Here's a thought - you in the U.K. have a cluestick hanging on a hook by the door. Her name is Annie Lennox, who was the female half of the Eurythmics and now has a substantial solo career. Consider how much e-mail, v-phone (?), and v-blog traffic she has to handle. Yes, politically she's something of a hot potato. But she is also a clear example of how an entertainer can benefit from the web. And even the most hide-bound of MP's will recognize the name.