Thursday, June 18, 2009
Peter Cochrane's Blog:
Become a bandwidth scavenger
Never has a subject been so studied, debated and reported with such little understanding and positive action as broadband in the UK. For me this came to a real head recently with the publication of the Carter Report, compounded by my appearance at a broadband conference - the last one I shall ever attend.
The Carter Report is a travesty of misunderstanding, misconception and missed opportunities. On one day our Prime Minister announces that every home in the UK will have 2Mbps broadband in 2011, and the next a Korean minister announces that everyone in his country will have 1,000Mbps in 2012.
We should also remember that the 1,000Mbps in Korea is yours and yours alone - it is not contended, or shared, like broadband pipes in the UK. In the UK it might say 2Mbps on the tin but that isn't what you are going to get!
At that recent broadband conference there were a number of 'take your breath away' statements from network and broadband suppliers. My favourites were:
- If you can figure out what anyone would use 100Mbps to the home or office for - let us know.
- There is no proven market for anything above 8Mbps.
- In the UK there is no demand for high-speed connections.
This was then compounded by comparing the UK's broadband with the rest of Europe. Ouch! What about the rest of the world? Talk about selecting the data set to make yourself look good. As far as I can tell the UK goes from the top three in the EU to around number 20 in the world league tables. All I could think was that these people don't get out much and need to take a trip or two into the real broadband world.
So what are we to do? The present economic recession will most likely preclude any effective government initiatives, while also curtailing the investments by carriers and ISPs. In my view we are definitely on our own - and will have to scavenge for what we can get.
computerweekly.com | Business needs ignored in Digital Britain report | Author:Ian Grant | Posted: 12:38 18 Jun 2009
Carolyn Kimber, chairman of the Communication Managers' Association, whose members spend £15bn/y on communications, wants a new Communications Act that balances better the interests of businesses and consumers. She said, "The CMA would have preferred to see an unequivocal commitment to carrier-neutral, open access networks as part of a revised universal access obligation."
The report preserved the "stranglehold" that BT and Virgin Media have over core networks, said Chris Smedley, chief executive of Geo, a private fibre network operator.
"Digital Britain (has) condemned the UK to an extended 'copper age'," he said. "It was meant to provide a framework to upgrade and modernise the UK's digital networks, but instead leaves us still dependent on antiquated copper networks for broadband."
Countries studied by the Broadband Stakeholder Group, such as Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Finland, were planning to install fibre to 75% to 100% of homes, which would give residents 100Mbps. South Korea was planning to introduce a 1Gbps service soon.
Government intervention in superfast broadband around the world
Australia: A$43bn project to deliver fibre to the home (FTTH, capable of 100Mbps) to 90% of homes; 12Mbps to the remaining 10%. Public to own at least 51% of the project. Minimum A$2,750 (£1,350) per household, depending on public sector share of investment.
New Zealand: NZ$1.5bn of public money to be used alongside private investment to deliver FTTH to 75% of homes. NZ$1,000 (£390) per household.
Singapore: $0.75bn of public funds available to deliver FTTH to 100% of homes. $715 (£450) per household.
Finland: By end of 2015, 99% of homes will be within 2km of a fibre connection. 95% of homes will be served by the market. The remaining 5% will be two-thirds funded by public investment of €133m. €55 (£47) per household (additional investment required to connect homes to fibre infrastructure).
Greece: €0.7bn of public investment, with a further €1.4bn of private investment, to deliver FTTH to 2m homes. €192 (£160) per household.
USA: Stimulus package includes $7.2bn for broadband projects, some which is to stimulate investment in superfast broadband, although most is to expand current broadband services. $63 (£40) per household.
UK: Final Third Fund to raise £1bn over seven years to bring superfast broadband to every home. £6 per household per year; £42 per household over seven years
Source: Broadband Stakeholders' Group
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
• Asia-Pacific has been leading FTTx developments, and millions of customers (especially in Japan and South Korea) already have access to next-generation access, but the service ecosystem has not yet truly adapted to capabilities of the new infrastructure.
• Europe is trying to catch up, although some countries – especially in Scandinavia – already have significant deployments and are accelerating rollouts boosted in part by municipal and utility-driven projects. The rest of Europe is still struggling with finding the right regulatory model to incentivize telcos to invest while avoiding the development of new broadband monopolies.
• In North America, a single broadband provider, Verizon, represents the large majority of deployment, leaving the rest of the country devoid of next-generation access (NGA) perspectives.
Publish Date & Author(s)
Beniot Felten, Senior Analyst
Vince Vittore, Program Manager
Darling must cut tax on fibre
- Jeff McKeown ZDNet.co.uk
If chancellor Alistair Darling were really serious about boosting the digital economy, he would rethink the tax on fibre-optic links, says Jeff McKeown.
Even if we set aside the hugely underwhelming nature of the 2Mbps proposition, he has clearly put little thought into the ground-level reality experienced by businesses trying to compete in the communications market.
Over the past decade, the government has been charging a business rate tax on any company trying to light up dark fibre networks and boost the digital economy. This tax creates a significant barrier to smaller-scale service providers entering the market.
Adding a payment holiday of three years, for example, to fibre deployments at or just above the minimum threshold, would then create the opportunity for smaller operators to get started and encourage a realistic deployment of the community networks that currently feature in Lord Carter's dreams.
Digital Britain?2000 - 2005 - 2010 - 2012 - 2020From the copper cage,to Maxwell's Rainbow?Digital Rights?Inspecting the packets.Or, don't tax the copper,incentivize the fibre?
- The Digital Britain report [Exec summary]
- The Digital Britain report [Full version]
- Digital Britain Impact Assessments
- a coherent strategy for making sure Britain has the modern infrastructure and networks, from energy to broadband, that will be the foundation of future prosperity
The Prime Minister has launched a “strategic plan” to invest in Britain’s economic and industrial future.
· Gordon Brown says: "The internet is as vital as water and gas" (Jun 17, 2009)
· Digital Britain Report: Read the exec summary here [part 1 of 2]… (Jun 17, 2009)
· Digital Britain Report: Read the exec summary here [part 2 of 2]… (Jun 17, 2009)
· Digital Britain Report: Government consults on next steps to take… (Jun 17, 2009)
· Digital Britain Report: Directgov responds & says it's up to the challenge (Jun 17, 2009)
Broadband for all
The report gives more details about how the government aims to provide universal access to a minimum 2Mb broadband connection, the so-called Universal Service Commitment. Part of the budget will come from money left over from the BBC's fund to help people switch to digital TV by 2012, with private partners and public sector bodies among other sources of funding.
An estimated 2.75m homes, about 11% of UK households, today have no access to a connection at this speed. The report says 1.5m households might get access to next-generation broadband as a result of the commitment. For Carter 2Mb was a "technological minimum wage". He adds: "We are not specifying a ceiling, we are specifying a floor."
Reaction Jeremy Hunt, the shadow culture secretary, welcomed the commitment to universal broadband, but said the report was a "digital dithering from a dated government".
Landline users will pay £6 a year towards the rollout of superfast broadband, with the surplus from the BBC's digital switchover help scheme helping to meet the £200m annual cost of providing universal access.
The government wants everyone to be able to receive broadband of at least 2Mbps by 2012 as it puts more public services online. It is anxious that remote or underserved parts of the country are not left behind when "next generation" broadband is built.
A 50p a month charge on the UK's copper lines to help upgrade the fixed-line network, a project on which BT and Virgin Media have already embarked, will raise up to £175m a year to extend next-generation broadband to the "final third" of the country the market will not reach.
Carter acknowledges that the levy will hit consumers already feeling the pinch. "How will the public react? We will find out," he said. "Our view as a government is that it's a good exercise of judgment."
Reaction For the Tories, Hunt says: "The cable revolution happened without a cable tax. The satellite revolution happened without a satellite tax. Everyone recognises that public investment may be necessary to reach more remote parts of the country - but simply slapping on an extra tax is an old economy solution to a new economy problem."
- Leader ZDNet.co.uk
If the economic events of the past 18 months have done much harm, they have also done some good.
The government now feels able to announce a tax-and-spend approach to funding the UK's next-generation broadband, with a 50p annual tax on fixed telephone lines going towards funding fast broadband for one-third of the country. While not the exuberant nationalisation we have proposed in the past, it's a solid and useful commitment towards universal service.
The rest of the report is another matter. Had the economy been kinder, we could perhaps have compared it to Woolworths Pick 'n' Mix. Broadband access is an essential right and a unrivalled conduit for learning, self-improvement and economic growth, yet the business ideas of the analogue generation are still to be allowed to squeeze that access in support of antiquated distribution and control.
"Digital" is the hero, but the heroics quoted — the web, the internet, digital music and video — would be nothing without the essential catalyst of open standards. But on this point, there is almost nothing said. Perhaps a word count give the strongest clue to Digital Britain's subconscious: in 245 pages, 'open standard' gets six hits, the same as "Microsoft". "Security" gets 69. Yet the speed advantages of next-generation broadband are illustrated by "an entire Star Wars DVD in three minutes" — illegal under any circumstances.
The overall tone of the report is of an earnest, with-it vicar, full of pious hopes and vague plans but desperately short of real engagement with the real world. Again, textual analysis helps. The verbs following the phrase "The government will..." are long on wishes, short on action: "signal", "consult", "enable", "pursue", "review", "support", "monitor", "expedite", "resolve", "facilitate", "encourage", "take account". We must be good and accept "free from" as well as "free to", or else Ofcom will write us a nasty letter — the modern, atheist equivalent of demonic possession.
As a collection of nice-enough ideas and right-direction guidance,Digital Britain holds up. As a solid plan of action, with proper milestones, testable commitments and a coherent vision, it falls down. As a revolutionary document, recognising the fundamental seachange in rights and responsibilities conferred by the biggest upset in intellectual affairs since literacy, it doesn't even twitch the meter.
Yet that may save us. This portmanteau puddingstone of indigestible bureaucracy leaves enough room for the true major driving force of Digital Britain to continue: our ability to take this stuff and do with it what we consider right.
bbc.co.uk | Engaging with the internet | The Digital Britain report offers a lot to work with, says Bill Thompson.
Posted by bill under billblog ]
Just last week the French Constitutional Council of France halted the government's plans to give a new authority the ability to cut the network access of internet users accused of copyright violations because "the internet is a component of the freedom of expression".
The view of the network as a utility and as a tool for expression is a very different one from that put forward by the dominant players in the so-called 'content industry'.
Record companies, film studios, newspapers and the TV broadcasters have all lobbied hard for the UK government to shape its internet policy around their interests.
They want copyright laws to be strengthened so they can lock up any and all content. They want anyone who dares to challenge their business to be kicked offline, fined and locked up. They want a world in which they control what can happen.
Fortunately that pressure seems largely to have been resisted, and the real thrust of the proposals is about getting everyone online and ensuring that the network is there to be used in ways that support creative expression, new forms of industry and new models of engagement.
A digital Britain is not one in which we are all sitting glued to our screens watching the same sort of television programming that we could have had on a cathode-ray set in the 1970's, downloading blockbuster movies or listening to more dull music made by rich popstars whose only real interest is their property portfolio.
It is one in which universal access allows us all to be fully-fledged citizens of a networked world that offers opportunities for creative expression and communication instead of the passive consumption of packaged content. There's a glimpse of that world through the Digital Britain report, and it is one that those of us who already live a networked life need to clarify, share and work to build.
- More / The digital age of rights