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Broadband - Who Needs It?

Broadband, who needs it? Well I guess we all do but sensible pricing has been a long time coming. The e-Envoy Andrew Pinder, believes that the conditions are now in place for us to overtake Germany, Europe’s broadband leader very swiftly indeed; a possible 3-1 to come in eighteen months if you prefer a football analogy?

Pinder had been encouraged by the take up of Broadband services in the opening months of the year. Britain has around 400,000 broadband customers, signed up to the cable networks of NTL and Telewest and to the DSL service offered by BT. In contrast, Germany has 2,2 million DSL subscribers half of the user in Europe, so a return match against the beastly Hun is well overdue.

A year ago, I wrote in The Observer, that it if you lived inside the embrace of the M25, it was very easy to imagine that we all shared the same connectivity potential, through the availability of satellite, cable and DSL on a local basis. But travel outside the major cities and the story can be a very different one.

Almost half the population has yet to join the Internet revolution and Government through a number of different, well-funded initiatives is working to solve the different technical and commercial challenges of bringing the Internet to the population in much the same way as the marvel of the telephone spread through the country and changed peoples lives nearly a century ago.

One tricky problem, yet to be properly solved, involves making broadband available in rural areas further North than the leafier parts of Surrey. As the cash-strapped operators, such as BT, don’t see why they should pick up the bill for a service that would struggle to be even vaguely commercially viable, Government has been forced to set aside £30 million to subsidise the expansion of the service to less well-populated areas. This week, the eMinister, Douglas Alexander revealed a number of projects that, with the help of the £30 million, would introduce broadband services to parts of the country, which include Yorkshire, Humberside and parts of the Midlands. This is of course a start, a line in the sand if you like but in real terms, even in a country as small and overcrowded as our own, I’m wondering if £30 million is more of an encouraging political gesture than a practical solution to the problem of broadband Britain.

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