Tuesday, March 17, 2009

UK - the future of broadband

Ofcom sets out challenge of broadband Britain

Ofcom boss Ed Richards last night set out the full scale of the challenge of realising the government's ambition of getting broadband to everyone in the UK by 2012, with over 1.5m homes currently unable to get the speed promised by Lord Carter in his Digital Britain plan.

Speaking at the The Future of Telecoms at the London School of Economics, Richards unveiled research to be published by the regulator later this week. Over 40% of the UK's estimated 25m households do not have broadband and, of those, Richards said that 55% "have decided they do not want it at all, even though they can afford it – we call these the 'self excluded'".

He added that 30% "are restrained by financial resources but would like to be online – we call these the 'financially excluded'," while "15% don't want it and don't have the resources anyway – we call these the 'dual excluded'".

"So, even though people are bombarded by messages about the range of benefits of being online – whether buying cheap insurance or catching up on last week's soaps – there seems to be millions of people who are not yet persuaded."

He added that 1% of UK households do want broadband but cannot get it where they live - the so-called 'geographically excluded' - but those figures are only for broadband at 512Kb per second.

Communications minister Lord Carter, in his interim Digital Britain report published in January, said he wants universal broadband access by 2012 at speeds of 2Mb per second and above.

At that speed, Richards said, "then the 1% grows substantially to an estimated 15% who simply can't access a service of this speed at present."

That is equivalent to roughly 1.5m homes.

He said it was "time to ensure that anyone who wants a decent basic broadband service can get one".

Lord Carter has made it plain that he believes the UK mobile phone networks have a major role to play in plugging the gaps in broadband coverage while Richards added that in some cases "simple and cheap improvements to in-house wiring can deliver the desired speed improvements".

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