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British Broadband Needs £1bn More Funding

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the filling-up-the-coffers dept.

Government 128

judgecorp writes "A report from the London School of Economics says that funding for superfast broadband in Britain faces a £1.1 billion shortfall. It's a government priority, but rural areas are uneconomic to cable up. From the article: 'Britain is in danger of missing out on the economic and social benefits of superfast broadband due to a lack of government funding and e-skills, according to a new report. Research by the London School of Economics (LSE) and Convergys claims a funding gap of £1.1 billion could cause the government to miss its target of having the “best superfast broadband network” in Europe by 2015.'"

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128 comments

wireless (1, Interesting)

sdnoob (917382) | about 2 years ago | (#39887929)

it's a small country.. should be easy enough to set up national fixed wireless service that reaches all but the most remote areas (e.g. areas that'd need multiple towers to reach a handful of households)

Re:wireless (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39887989)

Not _that_ small!

And the UK currently has a Tory (well, coalition of Tory and spineless yea-sayers headed by a tory in all but name) government. "National" anything means private investment and government kickbacks to chums.

Re:wireless (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39888001)

Yes, it's small. You people seriously overestimate the size and importance of your cold, little island.

Re:wireless (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 2 years ago | (#39888119)

Yes, it's small. You people seriously overestimate the size and importance of your cold, little island.

Small is relative. Its long and thin, Lands End to John O' Groats (one end to the other) is about the same distance as New York to Chicago. Parts of the highlands are very remote and sparsely populated.

Re:wireless (2)

Theophany (2519296) | about 2 years ago | (#39888177)

We're not the power we once were, sun never setting on the British Empire and all that. But in terms of a ratio of political/economic power to geographical size, we pack a decent amount of power per sq. mile.

Also, biggest financial centre in the world, so suck it.

Re:wireless (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39888071)

Yes, small... but densely populated.

Re:wireless (1)

sdnoob (917382) | about 2 years ago | (#39888183)

which should make it easier and cheaper, as more households and businesses already have cable to them (or have cable that passes them) for internet via cable or dsl... those profits should be able to fund the build-out of wireless (fixed or cellular) elsewhere (where it may not be 'cost effective' to upgrade wireline infrastructure) while still leaving a reasonable profit leftover for the pockets of corporate executives and the politicians they bribe ...
 

Re:wireless (2)

neokushan (932374) | about 2 years ago | (#39889109)

The problem isn't the places that have cables near them already, it's the ones that don't. Most major cities these days are fine and by 2015 probably will have some form of cable, FTTC or both, but it's the small towns and villiages (of which there are many) that are miles away and only have a few residents. If there's only 30 people there and the nearest telephone exchange is 5 miles away, then how much is it going to cost to lay that much cable and blanket the area in wireless? Now split that cost up by 30 and suddenly it's quite expensive.

Small compared to where? (1)

Viol8 (599362) | about 2 years ago | (#39888331)

The british mainland is 800 miles long (1000 miles if you include the shetland and scilly isles) with 200 miles of mountains in scotland. While it may be small compared to the USA or russia its quite big compared to a lot of other countries.

I get a bit tired of my country being pigeonholed as some tiny little quaint island one step up from marthas vineyard or similar.

Re:Small compared to where? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39888477)

G' day

Yes. Wiring up your little island which its of measure against tassie is nothing compared to writing up Australia. Big island. Lots of unpopulated areas. This is why the Australian nbn project plans to connect the 5 to 10% of real remote areas via sat link. Cheaper.

Your problems are small in comparison. Be thankful.

Re:Small compared to where? (1)

Jimbookis (517778) | about 2 years ago | (#39888639)

The british mainland is 800 miles long (1000 miles if you include the shetland and scilly isles) with 200 miles of mountains in scotland. While it may be small compared to the USA or russia its quite big compared to a lot of other countries.

I get a bit tired of my country being pigeonholed as some tiny little quaint island one step up from marthas vineyard or similar.

Your quaint little island has the same land area as my quaint little State of Victoria which has buggerall people in it. Your country is a step up from Iceland and has a shittier economy to boot. And crapper broadband.

Re:Small compared to where? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39888863)

I live in Manchester UK and have 100Mb...

Re:Small compared to where? (1)

Viol8 (599362) | about 2 years ago | (#39888949)

"Your country is a step up from Iceland and has a shittier economy to boot."

Really? I guess they haven't taught you how to use google down under yet. Not surprising considering as you say there are bugger all people and its all flies and dirt.

But just FYI the GDP of the UK is about $2 trillion, iceland is about $12 billion.

Re:Small compared to where? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39889303)

I'm an Australia who lives in the UK to run my business and I am sick of Aussies making themselves look like idiots providing random comments on how superior Australia is to so many other parts of the world. Until you have lived and worked in different cultures any opinion you have doesn't matter as you are just an ignorant fool. A 6 week kontiki tour of Europe doesn't give you a single insight into anything, but at least you can fly back home and get married at 25 and tell all your mates how cultured you where because you did your mandatory end of university tour of Europe.

I love Australia but after living here, in Germany and Italy for a few years and constantly reading comments like yours. It really does make Australia look like the arse end of the world.

Re:Small compared to where? (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 2 years ago | (#39888645)

The british mainland is 800 miles long (1000 miles if you include the shetland and scilly isles)

If we get to include the Shetlands and Scilly then should they have Hawaii and Alaska, giving them over 5000 miles as the crow files? [distance-c...ator.co.uk]

Re:Small compared to where? (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | about 2 years ago | (#39888933)

4th most populated country in Europe 12th largest country in Europe ...

If it were a US state it would easily be the most populous, (almost the same as California and Texas together) , and the 12th largest by area ...

Re:Small compared to where? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39890301)

Oh for goodness sake, the petty whining in this thread at an innocent "small country" remark is embarrassing. I write that as an English AC living in England. Britain is small, so what, get over it. You are not correcting anyone, this foaming at the mouth just makes you look insecure.

Re:wireless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39888373)

If anything, the wireless would be better served for the hard to wire places.
Yeah, they ain't going to be playing Quake anytime soon, but they will at least be connected with fairly decent speeds. Have a caching server there to cache popular things, cut down considerably on the bandwidth too.

But yes, wireless towers ~50 miles apart as supernodes, then a bunch of minor ones scattered around, would be good for cutting down a lot of the cost for wires.
Again, problem will be latency increases at unpredictable values as well as wireless congestion.
A wireless 3G dongle in a crowded area is like trying to walk through a room packed with people, literally packed as in front to back.
Interference will really need to be dealt with or it is tits up for that idea.
An obvious solution is a circle of minor nodes around a supernode that all have channels on opposite sides of the spectrum than their neighbors. Limits overlap considerably but limits throughput to an extent as well. Standard wireless you could probably fit around 4 channels reliably in to 3 areas sharing the same middle area without too much of problem.
Eh, who am I kidding, I'm not some wireless magic guru so I can't comment on it as much, just using basic interference knowledge.

if this anything like the subsidies (1)

Shivetya (243324) | about 2 years ago | (#39888013)

for other industries they real beneficiaries are not the outlying regions but the connected in high places people who choose to have estates far from their primary place of work.

Simple economics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39888031)

If there is a real benefit to having rural broadband, the customers will make it pay. If it is uneconomic, it means that people don't really want it as much as they pretend to.

Now what with all of this government meddling?

Re:Simple economics (1)

firex726 (1188453) | about 2 years ago | (#39888137)

Hardly, there are some fixed costs with regards to laying fiber/cable.

They may have to lay several miles of cable and the HW which would easily costs in the tens of thousands, just to reach a single person.
That person may genuinely want the service, but it's just not economically viable to run it out there to him and him alone.

Re:Simple economics (4, Insightful)

MrAngryForNoReason (711935) | about 2 years ago | (#39888209)

That person may genuinely want the service, but it's just not economically viable to run it out there to him and him alone.

In that case the person needs to sit down and think hard about his choice to live where he does. The government subsidising roll out of broadband to every remote cottage in order to be able to claim 100% availability is a tremendous waste of money.

When you choose where to live you take into account a lot of different factors, nearby schools, sports facilities, local restaurants or amenities. Why is broadband any different from anything else? Last time I moved I checked likely ADSL speeds and availability of cable online when I was making a short list of properties.

I can't move to a remote location and then demand someone comes and builds a pub next door so I don't have to walk so far for a pint. Why should I expect someone to run miles of expensive cable to my door.

Re:Simple economics (1)

firex726 (1188453) | about 2 years ago | (#39888233)

I think you missed the point and your argument has nothing to do with my post.

OP was asserting that nothing is uneconomic if someone want's it really bad. And if it IS uneconomic then it's just that they were pretending to want it.

I disagree, there are cases where the customer may want it, but cannot afford to pay for the $60,000 to cover the necessary enterprise grade networking equipment.

Re:Simple economics (1)

samjam (256347) | about 2 years ago | (#39888297)

"In that case the person needs to sit down and think hard about his choice to live where he does."

Subsidy of country living is what makes country housing so expensive for the people who can barely afford to live there.

When there is no broadband and bus service then the price of country housing will go down.

City dwellers who can't afford country housing wonder why they have to subsidise those who do have that enjoyment.

Re:Simple economics (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 2 years ago | (#39888713)

I think you missed the point and your argument has nothing to do with my post.

OP was asserting that nothing is uneconomic if someone want's it really bad. And if it IS uneconomic then it's just that they were pretending to want it.

I disagree, there are cases where the customer may want it, but cannot afford to pay for the $60,000 to cover the necessary enterprise grade networking equipment.

There are a lot of things I want but cannot afford to pay. Will the government build me a swimming pool and buy me a porche?

Re:Simple economics (1)

gutnor (872759) | about 2 years ago | (#39889085)

I agree with you that there is a element of life choice involved here, especially for the young (and by young, I mean less than 60) There is the same concern for giving unemployment benefit to people that live in region/town where there is no work and where there has been no work for generations.

There is however the other side of the coin, at least from the government perspective:
1. High concentration of people have their costly problems too: traffic, sanitation, power and water distribution. And then the government also need to help people to deal with higher cost of living (or if you don't people to help people living in cities, you need to deal with people not finding work, catch 22)
2. There is a cost associated to letting the country side die or fall behind: tourism (visitor and local product), business opportunities (country side outsourcing), equal opportunities (you don't know where the next Steve Jobs will be born)

Wiring the whole country is certainly a waste of money (that being said, we did it with water, sanitation, road, electricity, phonelines before), however there is certainly a balance to reach for the good of the country. (note that all those costs are externalities - there is no other way but for the government to pay)

Re:Simple economics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39890381)

That person may genuinely want the service, but it's just not economically viable to run it out there to him and him alone.

In that case the person needs to sit down and think hard about his choice to live where he does. The government subsidising roll out of broadband to every remote cottage in order to be able to claim 100% availability is a tremendous waste of money.

When you choose where to live you take into account a lot of different factors, nearby schools, sports facilities, local restaurants or amenities. Why is broadband any different from anything else? Last time I moved I checked likely ADSL speeds and availability of cable online when I was making a short list of properties.

I can't move to a remote location and then demand someone comes and builds a pub next door so I don't have to walk so far for a pint. Why should I expect someone to run miles of expensive cable to my door.

I think it depends on what location we're talking about. Broadband is a new "requirement" and if it really is very remote there may be good reasons to want to retain a population there. Not least to stop a massive population stream from remote places to already overcrowded towns and cities. However, if all we're talking about are the lovely rural villages surrounding big towns, then they can go stuff themselves. People living there are usually the affluent middle class that chose to live in those villages and paid a premium for it. There is absolutely no reason for the rest of us to subsidise their broadband.

Re:Simple economics (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | about 2 years ago | (#39891507)

In that case the person needs to sit down and think hard about his choice to live where he does./quote
Exactly. If I lived in the middle of the nearest city I'd have 100Mbps cable broadband. I'd also be paying twice as much to live there, have no garden, nowhere to park and lots of noise.

I live out in the sticks where I get 5Mbps broadband, have a big garden, plenty parking, dark skies and it's quiet. There's also not a lot of RF floating about too, with all the noise and clatter from cheap plasma TVs and crappy wifi routers.

It's awesome.

Re:Simple economics (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | about 2 years ago | (#39888385)

Aye. Also, in most cases, people live in rural areas because they want to be away from the 'hubub' of city life. There are choices and expenses associated with each.

Why not just make sure a hub is available to the regions (guaranteed to be within a certain distance), and leave the onus of the "last mile", up to the residents?

Yes - I know farmers have no choice but to live in less dense regions. However, in my experience. they tend to prefer these less dense regions, and in more than a few cases, either that's why they chose farming, or they consider a perk to the job.

Re:Simple economics (1)

Bengie (1121981) | about 2 years ago | (#39889733)

My city of 17k got a federal grant for installing fiber because we're classified as "rural". I think "rural" needs to be defined as I think the government is using something other than the dictionary. Not to say the USA and UK governments use the same definition, but it brings up the issue of different definitions.

Re:Simple economics (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 2 years ago | (#39888697)

If there is a real benefit to having rural broadband, the customers will make it pay. If it is uneconomic, it means that people don't really want it as much as they pretend to.

Now what with all of this government meddling?

Unfortunately the actions of the telecom company has made it unattractive to club together and get broadband. Where villages have clubbed together to buy a leased line and set up an area wifi, BT has installed a faster line than they ordered and then offers internet in the village itself. In other words people have paid a few hundred pounds each and signed up to a share of a community line at a cost which is now greater than BT's internet - because they paid for a line to be installed.

call instagram (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39888035)

They have a billion dollars sitting around. That'd cover half.

Why? (4, Insightful)

damienl451 (841528) | about 2 years ago | (#39888067)

At a time when austerity is the word of the day and cuts are being made all over the place, I wonder whether "superfast broadband" in rural areas is the best way to use limited resources. Presumably, people choose to live in rural areas because they derive benefits from that (clear air, outdoors, less crime, community, etc.). Good for them! But why should city dwellers subsidize their rural lifestyle? If you choose to live in a rural area with low population density, you have to accept that perhaps your internet connexion will not be as fast as if you lived in bustling city.

Re:Why? (2)

Chrisq (894406) | about 2 years ago | (#39888143)

At a time when austerity is the word of the day and cuts are being made all over the place, I wonder whether "superfast broadband" in rural areas is the best way to use limited resources. Presumably, people choose to live in rural areas because they derive benefits from that (clear air, outdoors, less crime, community, etc.). Good for them! But why should city dwellers subsidize their rural lifestyle? If you choose to live in a rural area with low population density, you have to accept that perhaps your internet connexion will not be as fast as if you lived in bustling city.

Ah ... but a lot of the people buying big houses in the country are Conservative MPs, the ones who decide what your money should be spent on.

Re:Why? (2)

zennyboy (1002544) | about 2 years ago | (#39888215)

Or we came out here as we could not afford family-sized city-based accommodation...

Not in my case, but for many, rural is the cheapest way to live...

Re:Why? (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 2 years ago | (#39888757)

Or we came out here as we could not afford family-sized city-based accommodation...

Not in my case, but for many, rural is the cheapest way to live...

Not unless you are talking about teleworking or really long commutes, the hour and a sub half distance from big cities (in the South East at least) is more expensive than the "outer city". Of course the expensive properties right in the centre (£50,000 a year rent plus) are only available to either the very rich or the scroungers on the dole, via housing benefit. (Whet a stupid country it is when we working people commute for hours to pay tax that goes to work-shy chavs who live in the city).

Re:Why? (1)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | about 2 years ago | (#39888269)

Superfast broadband is being seen as this decade's basic democratic right.

An extra billion pounds to wire up 60 million people seems cheap compared to the $AU35billion+ the Australian government is to spend on their equivalent.

Re:Why? (1)

fitteschleiker (742917) | about 2 years ago | (#39888913)

Maybe the difference is that in australia (here), it is the rural dwellers that make the country money. They pay tax and see monuments go up in the cities, but city dwellers are mostly parasitic "service" providers. They contribute nothing to the international trade balance, only consume each others wealth.

Re:Why? (4, Insightful)

water-and-sewer (612923) | about 2 years ago | (#39888401)

This drives me crazy as it stinks of "un-researched." Yes, broadband internet is probably useful and may lead to economic benefits of some sort. But I think in practice the way that broadband is going to be put to use is streaming TV over Internet, so, basically entertainment. Meanwhile, web pages bloat and you can enjoy Flash goodness in new craptacular ways.

To address the recession in the US the Obama administration prioritized the same. One of the sob stories was a rural farm owner complaining "with dial up it can take me 45 minutes to upload a picture of the horse I'm selling." FFS, you know she's uploading a 4+MB picture her camera took, with enough pixels to print the damn thing out at life-size. If she reduced it to, say, 900x600 she'd have a picture she could upload in a few seconds over a plain old dial up line.

My point is: it's easy to claim on the basis of no research at all that lack of access to broadband is a killer that will cause the economy to implode. But I don't think it's true, and suspect the big ISPs and cable companies are whispering this falsehood in the ears of gullible politicians. If the point of Internet is to access information I think you do a lot of what you need to do with very little bandwidth at all. You need more bandwidth to offer new services (like, ahem, a service that tints your digital photos and allows you to share them for free, cough). But you don't host a server like that in the woods, you host it at a hosting facility in the capital.

So, what is the need again? Does anybody know?

Re:Why? (2)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | about 2 years ago | (#39888511)

And even if he GOT super-fast broadband speeds, his upload would still suck donkey balls. I can get 20Mb down, but can barely push 460Kb up. That's about 2.25% of my download speed! Shaw Cable in Lower Mainland BC btw.

Re:Why? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39888627)

So, what is the need again? Does anybody know?

It is absolutely vital to our national interest that the subsidy to corporations be maintained, no increased even, in this time of insecurity.

Chattanooga doesn't know how to use it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39888811)

Chattanooga, TN has 1 gigabit consumer internet, via its public utility.. Only 8 residential households (of a few months ago) have signed up for 1 gigabit internet speeds (~$350/month). It is offering a $300K prize for whomever can up with how to use all that bandwidth. I doubt they will find one in the next several years. There's always the hospitals and education excuse, but that's nothing some fedexed hard drives can't take care of.

Re:Chattanooga doesn't know how to use it (1)

fitteschleiker (742917) | about 2 years ago | (#39889343)

where can I find out about this prize? I can't find a reference to it on the net... I have some ideas to enter. grow some imagination

Re:Chattanooga doesn't know how to use it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39890443)

Yes, but remember, they are also offering lower tiers of service, and those have been heavily utilized.

http://chattanoogagig.com/ though, it is not quite what you represent it to be. Seems like more of an excuse to spend money on a conference.

Re:Why? (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 2 years ago | (#39890563)

Meanwhile, web pages bloat and you can enjoy Flash goodness in new craptacular ways.

Online shopping is one of the fastest growing areas. In fact it is one of the few growing areas any more. Lots of high resolution images and fancy 360 degree Flash based products displays are the order of the day, because that is what sells. Studies have shown that if a web page takes more than a couple of seconds to load punters rapidly lose interest.

Streaming video is taking off massively and is likely to replace cable and satellite TV in the next decade or so.

In countries that have fast broadband there are a lot of new services that make use of it. By the time we get there foreign companies will have already invented all the technology and dominate the market, leaving no room for British businesses. We are just about scraping by at the moment and iPlayer has been huge, but there are no British versions of YouTube, Netflix, NicoNico, Hulu etc.

Re:Why? (2)

coastwalker (307620) | about 2 years ago | (#39888433)

There is no economic value in super-fast broadband to rural areas. The only value is to super-fast broadband infrastructure companies who would like to have the taxpayers money to give us a boost during the recession. Where is the need for fat pipes to empty rural landscapes. We could have a much better economy if we first got rid of all these self serving think tanks sponging off the small proportion of us who actually create wealth. I despair.

Re:Why? (1)

Xest (935314) | about 2 years ago | (#39888519)

Yes, I'll remember that argument as I'm sat here in my rural village next to a resevoir that's at 100% capacity and you come crawling because you want some of our water due to the fact those of you in cities like London are consuming more than you've accounted for in your resevoirs and you talk about bringing some from the North. Maybe if some of you moved more rural there'd be enough water to go around.

Don't be suprised when food goes up in cities too as farmers increase prices to pay for their rural broadband whilst the rest of us continue to get it cheap from our local farm shops.

More seriously though it's not even entirely about rural areas anyway. I know plenty of cities where the broadband support is spotty. Very little of the UK is truly rural and those that are get sympathy money from the EU. Most of what is deemed rural in the UK would simply be called suburbia in the US - the place where I live included.

There is a lot of sense to rolling broadband out to "rural" areas though because it means government services can go digital reducing tax burden on physical implementation, it means cities can exploit talent situated in rural areas via telecommuting etc. which in my field - software development, would be a pretty big boost as there are skill shortages in a number of technology/language combinations. Ultimately it's the sort of thing that would pay for itself in the long run, and quite possibly reduce tax needs for rural areas whilst increasing their economic productivity. Believe it or not, broadband isn't just about being able to download the latest movies faster.

We're all in the same country at the end of the day, and I don't really have a problem of some of the water from our full resevoirs being shipped south to parched London etc., nor do I have a problem with a greater portion of the transport budget for example being spent in London being a couple of orders of magnitude higher in some circumstances per head of population elsewhere, providing they're also willing to share when it comes to things like broadband. Divisive arguments like "Well I have my nice shiny broadband, I don't care if anyone else has it, I want the government to buy me a nice rainbow unicorn instead with the money" are frankly quite retarded, ignorant, and short sighted. They don't even make sense, by saying you don't want to pay to put broadband in rural areas you're effectively saying you'd rather tax payers have to keep funding brick and mortar buildings to carry on providing services in a manner that's inherently much more expensive.

Fortunately here in South Yorkshire we've rolled out our own fibre network anyway, it still has some way to go, but it's kicked BT into rolling their network out to match too meaning a pretty healthy fibre broadband market. Mostly it was Europe we had to thank for the funding for this though, rather than Westminster.

Re:Why? (1)

Unoriginal_Nickname (1248894) | about 2 years ago | (#39888563)

I think what you should really be asking is why 'austerity' is the word of the day.

Fiscal policy is an effective way to stabilize the economy. The basic idea is that government spending increases relative to real GDP during contractions, while taxation decreases or remains stable. The idea is for fiscal policy to smooth out the business cycle. Liberals and conservatives, in all countries, understand this idea very well*. That's why you only see them talking about austerity measures when they're talking about getting rid of something they personally dislike. Actually applying it across the board would be economic seppuku (other than hopeless cases like Greece.)

(* Like most intelligent and educated people, I am ignoring the Libertarians.)

Re:Why? (1)

sleiper (1772326) | about 2 years ago | (#39888703)

I live in a town of 14k people and we have just moved to 8Mb broadband speeds, the closest City, of around 250k people moved to 20Mb a year or so ago. There is no estimated date for my town to get access to BT's fibre network or Virgin's Cable network even if it ever comes to the City 13 miles away. I would not consider myself rural, im an hour's drive from the capital and 10 minutes drive from one of the major oil ports in the north sea. I'm in Scotland BTW, and the busy side, not the mountains, blue ocean, and unhappy crofters side.

Re:Why? (1)

Dark$ide (732508) | about 2 years ago | (#39890287)

I live in a town of 14k people and we have just moved to 8Mb broadband speeds, the closest City, of around 250k people moved to 20Mb a year or so ago. There is no estimated date for my town to get access to BT's fibre network or Virgin's Cable network even if it ever comes to the City 13 miles away. I would not consider myself rural, im an hour's drive from the capital and 10 minutes drive from one of the major oil ports in the north sea. I'm in Scotland BTW, and the busy side, not the mountains, blue ocean, and unhappy crofters side.

Luxury. I live in a town of 140K and the best we can get is 4Mb.

Part of the problem is lack of investment by BT because they're a private company who have to feed their shareholders rather than giving the best possible service to their customers. Cameron and the ConDem Gov't can bleat on about superfast broadband for everyone including the folks in the Outer Hebrides but unless BT can turn that into a profit for their shareholders it ain't gonna happen.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39889391)

Speaking from experience, the rural folk are not after "superfast broadband" - they're just after something that works.

Like, for example, something that's better than a very flakey 256-512 kbps connection that just plain does not work at peak times.

Heck, in some locations dial-up is more reliable and better than the 'broadband' offerings - except for the ever decreasing number of ISPs that will handle dial-up connections.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39889763)

That's similar to my perspective. There are an amount of benefits derived from living in the countryside. This is balanced against the losses associated with not living in an urban area.

If uk.gov intends to wire up rural areas, perhaps they could also be persuaded to surround my urban house with fields and hedgerows? Thought not.

RBS just finished giving us back £163bn (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39888083)

Can't we use some of that? It's a much worthier cause.

Money money money (2)

Wowsers (1151731) | about 2 years ago | (#39888093)

Just before the 2010 general election, the now ex-Labour government shoved through (mostly) to BT, the main backbone company in the UK £10bn to upgrade switches etc. to enable spying on all phone calls and internet traffic in real time. Imagine what you could do for an economy instead of spying on people, you built a phone / data network that is faster than your competitors for businesses.

Oh well, you can dream on with politicians having common sense. They are more worried about themselves and what people are saying about them, than worrying about the economy.

"Could cause"? Understatement of the century... (3)

Retron (577778) | about 2 years ago | (#39888167)

How amusing - our dear little con-dem Government reckons Britian will have the best superfast broadband by 2015, do they? Well, they might like to "encourage" BT to pull its finger out and upgrade all the exchanges to ADSL2 for a start. There are thousands of small exchanges stuck about 5 years in the past and no plans whatsoever to upgrade them.

Meanwhile all the effort seems to be going to towns and cities, the places that already have the choice of cable or ADSL2 or fibre to the cabinet. They really ought to splunk that cash on bringing everyone up to speed instead, but no, as it's all about money it's far more efficient for them just to push ahead where there's already fast broadband.

I think there's more chance of the Sun suddenly exploding than there is of the UK having the best superfast broadband by 2015.

and the benefits are? (4, Interesting)

travellerjohn (772758) | about 2 years ago | (#39888175)

Superfast broadband is great, but are there really economic and social benefits?

Fast broadband makes a difference to entertainment but hardly necessary for employment, communication or accessing public services. Unless the government has plan to put high end tech jobs out in the depths of the Scottish highlands I would have thought that 4 MBps would do just fine. I struggle to see why I should subsidise some farmers access to NetFlix.

Who commissioned this report again? Any danger of the LSE coming to the conclusions the client wanted?

Re:and the benefits are? (2)

Viol8 (599362) | about 2 years ago | (#39888307)

The sort of people who witter on about social benefits are the sort who spend their entire waking life on twitter or facebook. Most normal people treat the internet as an amusing distraction or somewhere they occasionally do online banking or book a holiday, nothing more.

Re:and the benefits are? (1)

Troggie87 (1579051) | about 2 years ago | (#39888967)

Yeah, fluff I say! Like that electricity, with its expensive lines! Why do they need that when a torch and icebox will do? Or phone lines! After all, most conversations can be done by letter just as well. And what a waste roads are, the moving carriage is little more than a toy. A horse is just as fast and doesn't need a paved way! The audacity of these bumpkins, being born outside of my privileged environment...

Eherm... got carried away. My point is, your lack of imagination can be applied to the most important technologies of the modern era. Its a good thing people in the past had more vision. If you don’t develop rural infrastructure you prevent those areas from ever seeing development. This forces people into densely packed cities, which past a certain point causes FAR more health and environmental issues than can ever be made up simply from living close together. With the advent of telecommunication we should be encouraging movement to rural areas, not discouraging it. And unless you have a crystal ball theres no way you can say with any certainty that a modern internet connection wont suddenly be just as important as phones or roads. What if Kahn Academy or the MIT lecture series really take off, and the oppertunity of high quality cheap education arrives if you have a video-quality internet connection? It seems more and more likely that could be the case.

Not to mention you're picking social winners and losers, essentially just accepting the creation of an underclass for your own perceived benefit. Don’t try and play it off as one guy living on Everest begging for internet, a sizable portion of the population lives in rural areas. And contrary to seemingly popular belief, not everyone moves to the country with a lot of money for the health benefits. Lots of people start there, and couldn’t scrape the money together to move to an expensive urban area (assuming they even had skills marketable in a city).

Re:and the benefits are? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39889453)

I agree!

There is no place in the UK for any of this, the rural villages should all just shut up and behave and become the souless communter suburb we want them to become!

Don't let them have the same services as everyone else, or else they might do something stupid and upitty and start running businesses...

Can't be having any of that going on out in the countryside where we can't watch them, move all the businesses to London!

Rural areas (4, Insightful)

MrAngryForNoReason (711935) | about 2 years ago | (#39888181)

but rural areas are uneconomic to cable up

Then don't. Seriously, so much noise is made in the UK about universal access to broadband and the majority of it is people complaining that the speeds they get are terrible. Or that BT has told them they need to pay thousands if they want connecting. What do all of these people have in common? They live in rural areas often right in the middle of nowhere.

The papers love this kind of thing as it allows then to print headlines like "Rural Pensioner charged £90,000 for broadband setup". Ignoring what should be obvious to anyone which is if you choose to live in a remote location then you have to accept that there may be downsides to that decision. One of those downsides will inevitably be poorer access to services. Expecting any company (or government) to run miles of cable and install switching equipment for the sake of one house is ludicrous.

In the same way I can't move to the middle of nowhere and then complain that I have to walk miles to buy a paper in the morning, complaining about not having access to the best broadband speeds is hardly reasonable.

Re:Rural areas (1)

jimicus (737525) | about 2 years ago | (#39888459)

Not always as simple as that. We've got a fairly densely populated country; it's common to find villages on the outskirts of towns - perhaps only a few km from the town centre - that have their own telephone exchange that was only enabled for ADSL relatively recently.

The only way you'd know you were moving into a potential broadband blackhole is if you put the postcode into SamKnows before buying the house. A cursory glance at a map wouldn't necessarily be terribly informative - indeed, it could be downright misleading.

Re:Rural areas (1)

MrAngryForNoReason (711935) | about 2 years ago | (#39889335)

that was only enabled for ADSL relatively recently.

What do you consider recently? BT announced 99% coverage of households in the UK back in 2005, the current coverage is even higher than that with the remainder being almost entirely made up of households that are too far away from an exchange for ADSL to work.

The only way you'd know you were moving into a potential broadband blackhole is if you put the postcode into SamKnows before buying the house.

Which I think you will agree is hardly the most difficult part of due diligence you will be doing before buying a house. In fact you don't even need to go as far as finding the SamKnows website you could just phone up BT and they would let you know the coverage and approximate speed in that area over the phone.

Let us be clear here, this article isn't about needing more money to provide standard internet access, practically everyone in the UK already has access to either ADSL or cable internet ranging from 1MB to 100MB. Anyone who lives within a couple of miles of their exchange can get 8MB to 24MB ADSL2+. This article is about 'Superfast broadband' which the government are currently defining as a service which speed in excess of 24MB.

Re:Rural areas (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39888497)

In the same way I can't move to the middle of nowhere and then complain that I have to walk miles to buy a paper in the morning, complaining about not having access to the best broadband speeds is hardly reasonable.

Your argument is fine at an individual level but doesn't work at the national level which the government has to (and should) consider. There will always be a significant number of people who have to live in rural areas and it's not in the country's interest to force them all to move to the city.

Re:Rural areas (1)

anti-pop-frustration (814358) | about 2 years ago | (#39888585)

If you choose to live in a remote location then you have to accept that there may be downsides to that decision. One of those downsides will inevitably be poorer access to services. Expecting any company (or government) to run miles of cable and install switching equipment for the sake of one house is ludicrous.

And that's also why most of the rural UK doesn't have access to electricity, running water and landlines.

Oh wait...

Re:Rural areas (1)

MrAngryForNoReason (711935) | about 2 years ago | (#39889689)

And that's also why most of the rural UK doesn't have access to electricity, running water and landlines.

If you build a new house or renovate one that doesn't have existing connections to utilities then, shock horror, you have to pay to have them connected. In a suburban plot or in a large village with most main services, a quotation for supply of water and the right to connect to a mains sewer can vary in price between £500 and £700 in addition to the cost of any associated work to the public highway. Gas can vary from a few hundred pounds to over £700 and electricity from £500 to £1,200.

If your new house isn't part of an existing village then depending on how remote it is the cost of having it connected to utilities can be vast, running to tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds which you will have to pay. If you a proper idea of how much it would cost to have say electricity connected to a remote property then take a look at this pricing guidance document [enwl.co.uk] produced by Electricity North West who cover the North West of England. It includes detailed breakdowns of how these things are priced. For instance by my reckoning after a quick read to connect a property that is 1km away from current services is going to cost you in excess of £40,000.

Re:Rural areas (1)

Bengie (1121981) | about 2 years ago | (#39892147)

In the USA, we like farmers who make food so the rest of use lazy people don't starve. So the government runs electricity/etc to these rural folk.

I think all of the farmers should just conspire to jack up the prices of food to cover the cost of fiber roll out and see how everyone fairs. OMG anti-trust! Welcome to the free-market that you so much want. Ohh, wait.. you want the government to help you but not the farmers?

Re:Rural areas (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39888709)

I suppose that also makes it ludicrous to transport all of the remotely grown food (not to talk about all of the other goods from dubious origins) from other places to your local supermarket, why don't you go get it?

Re:Rural areas (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39889517)

"In the same way I can't move to the middle of nowhere and then complain that I have to walk miles to buy a paper in the morning, complaining about not having access to the best broadband speeds is hardly reasonable."

This is not a problem about "access to the best broadband speeds" - it's a problem with no reliable access to any kind of broadband at all!

People I know in this situation would be more than happy with 1-2 Mbps - we are really not talking about 10-20Mbps that most of the comments seem to be assuming we are talking about.

Re:Rural areas (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39890757)

The world population is going up, not down. People have to live somewhere.

£1.1 billion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39888201)

Fast broadband is never going to happen here then...

I guess we should just give up and move on with our lives.

What is the point of getting "super-fast"? (1)

McDrewbs (2434030) | about 2 years ago | (#39888229)

If the ISPs will continue to limit how much you can download each month as if there is a limited supply of "internets". ISPs in the UK (no idea what it is like across the pond) seem to follow the same business model that the movie/music industry does and until that changes, I don't see a valid reason for this and I live in one of those areas considered "rural England". Many people I know don't need 'super-fast' and don't care for it. In fact most just care how much it costs and when ISPs start offering "super-fast broadband" they will also start offering super-high prices. The entire way internet services is sold in the UK is dodgy as hell (again, no idea what it is like across the pond). Each provider tries to sell you their own internet and tell you it is better then the rest. They are still selling WiFi as part of their packages as if it is a rare commodity that no-one else provides or is able to get and make it sound as if it is something exclusive to "their internet".

Re:What is the point of getting "super-fast"? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39888363)

That's not entirely true, whilst it could be much improved the biggest ISP in the UK is BT, who provide an unlimited 80/20Mb service for around £400 a year (you pay monthly, but for the best price you need to bundle a phone line and pay that yearly). The service has some traffic shaping with regards to torrents but has no other clauses such as a FUP today.

They're also forced to resell their fibre, VDSL and ADSL services, and allow access to the exchange to allow other providers to unbundle the last mile at the exchange for a resonable fee. It's not a perfect system; but if they'd hurry up and fibre the last mile it'd be swell, but I'm sure UK .gov is too stupid to actually stipulate that as a requirment.

Personally, I'd be more than happy to see .gov funds servicing such things; ensuring everyone has resonable access to an online connection would be a good first step in to delivering as many .gov services online as possible allowing us to save money. On the other hand, the government of the UK will probably just screw it up so maybe it's best they stayed away..

The problem is lack of competition (1)

amorsen (7485) | about 2 years ago | (#39888231)

The main UK problem is that backhaul from the exchanges is very expensive (and metered, believe it or not) unless you put equipment at all of them. This makes it almost impossible to compete with the few carriers who DO have equipment at all exchanges. Therefore broadband competition only exists in the cities where you can get enough subscribers that it is worth putting in your own equipment. Then add FTTC, where it is impossible for more than one carrier to put in equipment. There simply isn't room or power available for each carrier to be able to put in their own DSLAM in a cabinet, so competitors are forced to use the expensive and metered lines from the main carrier.

The result is that service in the rural areas is slow, expensive and metered, and service in urban areas is either cheap and slow (ADSL2+) or fast, expensive and metered (FTTC).

Just to make it worse, it is legal to tie customers in for long contracts. Right now BT won't sell you an FTTC line for love or money unless you indenture yourself for 18 months.

Re:The problem is lack of competition (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39888489)

Wait... Are you talking about Australia or England?

profit and customer care are two different things (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39888237)

Virgin media posted Cable TV, broadband and phone 2010 as best year ever as revenues hit £3.8bn
BT pre-tax profits of £1bn 2010
BskyB Revenue also rose to £5.9bn, up more than 10% on the £5.4bn recorded a year earlier.

There is lots of money to invest just the companies dont want to - they would rather charge for over priced and poor quality services to keep the share holders happy.

Re:profit and customer care are two different thin (1)

petermgreen (876956) | about 2 years ago | (#39888785)

Mmm, for an existing provider the question is not "how much are we making now?", it's "how much more would we make if we offered faster services and/or wider coverage and how much would it cost us to do that?"

And for a new upstart the question is "can we displace enough customers from the incumbent to pay for our fixed costs?"

How much does going from say 5mbps to 50mbps improve the internet experiance for normal users? how much extra do you think most people would pay for that improvement?

Re:profit and customer care are two different thin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39891621)

It reasonable for them to act that way in a market that is competitive, as the market itself will correct by competitors offering better speeds, reliability, and prices. Unfortunately rights to dig up our roads or ownership of ducts, falls on a duopoly for some of the country, and a monopoly for the rest so we need to force them to behave differently if we want any kind of reasonable service.

Personally I think it's silly for any of our utility infrastructure to be privatly owned, especially when they were orignally government funded. I'm not sure any of the players have shown a desire to improve or extend that, without being paid considerable sums of money, usually from government directives. We have a nice system where 3rd parties are allowed to sell services via our infrastructure, but the underlying tech itself should have been run by a non-profit.

Same goes for rails, leccy, gas, water, etc. Pretty sure it's way too late for that now though. :)

Don't Worry... (1)

fullback (968784) | about 2 years ago | (#39888243)

A few years ago I would have felt sorry for people without broadband or the Internet. Now I envy them.
There hasn't been anything good on the Internet in years. It's all crap. Reading the Internet will make you stupid now.

Re:Don't Worry... (1)

porksauce (1302059) | about 2 years ago | (#39889627)

I'm sure you're right, but as I get dumber, everything I read seems more insightful, so I don't notice the difference.

Re:Don't Worry... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39889817)

You may be right. I think I lost 2 IQ points reading your comment.

To clarify (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39888265)

A good example of the article missing the point entirely >>

"Britain is in danger of missing out on the economic and social benefits of superfast broadband due to a lack of government funding and e-skills"

Not quite correct, allow me to correct that for you....

'Rural areas of Britain, which are uneconomic to connect are in danger of missing out on the economic and social benefits of superfast broadband due to a lack of government funding and e-skills'

Tbh, if you buy a house out in the sticks this is one of many issues you factor in (such as distance from large hospital facilities / proximity to transit hubs etc etc..) If sparsely populated rural areas wish to acquire superfast broadband then they should be given the opportunity to invest in it on a group basis and receive reduced recurring charges if others later subscribe to the service locally without making the initial investment.

laughable (2)

gr8_phk (621180) | about 2 years ago | (#39888427)

That works out to 16 pounds per person. That's less than one months revenue for the network operators.

Not worth it? (1)

Bengie (1121981) | about 2 years ago | (#39888651)

There was an ISP in the USA that decided it was worth it to to run fiber to it's 30k customers, who were spread over 5,000 square miles or 13,000km2. That's an average of 6 people/mi2 or 2.3/km2.

How "rural" are these areas that they're not worth it?

Re:Not worth it? (1)

rogueippacket (1977626) | about 2 years ago | (#39889219)

Doing some napkin math, that would be about 400m of fiber per customer. Assuming no river crossings, street crossings, or rocky terrain, new-new fiber could be trenched for around $15 000. Aerial masts could further reduce this cost to the $10 000 mark. Therefore, this model could become profitable for each customer after anywhere between 5 and 10 years, assuming a monthly subscription of $150 - and that's an extremely modest fee for such first-rate service.
It is doable in the long-term, but it is purely an up-front capital investment. The incumbent carriers will simply never do it, because that capital is always better spent "buttering their bread", so to speak - in major centres, on enterprise customers, marketing, etc. For most of them, laying FTTH is seen as a liability - there is no guarantee the customer will subscribe, and as the incumbent, they are required to lease that infrastructure to competitors for literally pennies a day. The independent ISPs do not have these requirements, so they are free to become the only game in town. The system would work, but with the risk-averse state of the global economy where marginal investors want to make a quick buck without putting anything down, Indie ISP growth has been extremely hampered.

Re:Not worth it? (1)

Xest (935314) | about 2 years ago | (#39889405)

This is exactly the issue in the UK, you have ignorant Londoners whinging about rural, when in reality rural in the UK is equivalent to suburbia in the US. Even countries like Norway and Sweden who have much smaller populations than us but just as much distance to cover have better broadband networks - the problem isn't that "rural" in the UK is cost prohibitive, it's that no one wants to spend the money when they can make more investing it in the markets etc.

Realistically BT should be forced to roll it out as part of the condition of being able to maintain a near monopoly in those areas just as the UK's Royal Mail is granted a monopoly on last mile deliveries on the condition they delivery equally to every address in the country. There really needs to be stronger obligations on utility companies in the UK in general regarding equal access and fair pricing as they've been taking the piss for far too long. The UK just isn't big enough or sparsely populated enough for cost viability to be a reasonable excuse.

Really? (1)

zmollusc (763634) | about 2 years ago | (#39888779)

I thought that Britain is in danger of missing out on the economic and social benefits of superfast broadband due to The Pirate Bay being blocked.

Thankyou Ladies and germs. I'm here all week.

Rural areas in Britain? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39888835)

As a Canadian, I find the notion of rural areas in Britain being uneconomic to cable up to be quite hilarious.

Olympics (1)

suss (158993) | about 2 years ago | (#39888865)

The UK just spent 24 billion Pounds on the Olympics and nobody wanted those...

Surely they could have spent this money better on something like this broadband project... and with that much money left, give everyone a free PC!

Joke? (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 2 years ago | (#39889311)

could cause the government to miss its target of having the âoebest superfast broadband networkâ in Europe by 2015.

Surely the government jests. They seem to think that getting Virgin and BT to install FTTC is going to get us there, but clearly nothing short of a full FTTH roll-out is going to work. Fujitsu offered to do it but that would have upset Tory party donors.

How fast is the best? (1)

mathew42 (2475458) | about 2 years ago | (#39889407)

> cause the government to miss its target of having the “best superfast broadband network” in Europe by 2015.'

I'm curious as to how fast the best network is considered to be in Europe currently and what the target of the government is. The article is severely lacking in this information.

Poker Machines (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39890935)

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Poker Machines (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39891377)

Many thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I really feel strongly about it and love learning much more on this topic.
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