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The numbers game with broadband take-up
Wednesday 09 June 2004 09:30:00 by Andrew Ferguson

Access to Broadband Campaign (ABC) have issued a press release in response to statistics that Ofcom released last week.

ABC feels the simple statistics that Ofcom have released hide a more important issue – “Although this report shows a step in the right direction, until people can be shown to be using broadband bandwidth for more than a bit of e-mail or web surfing, these figures are of limited value in proving that the Britain is even close to achieving the target of being the most competitive broadband market. ABC argues that we need to look at what people with broadband actually do with it. It is only by using broadband to communicate, whether through files, video, audio or telephony that the full potential of broadband can be achieved. ABC believes that Ofcom needs to look at new ways of measuring broadband and that the UK needs a ‘best network’ metric – most data moved at least cost. Bench-marking of this metric across the confusing landscape of competing products, and across other economies would be a better way of judging where the UK is in the broadband league table.”

Broadband take-up and showing people what they can do with broadband, is an area that has been neglected. Is it Ofcoms job to do this - we would say no, Ofcom is there to regulate the market and ensure fair competition for the various providers. All those who have broadband know how it changes your use of the Internet, it becomes another form of media in the home, in other-words it compliments the radio/TV/newspapers, and here in lies the problem we believe. The traditional media is seeing broadband as a threat to its dominance, just like the print industry viewed TV in its early days. Surveys have shown that broadband users watch less TV. So who should educate the public to the benefits of broadband, and what are the benefits?

The benefits vary greatly from household to household, for some it is the ability to use online gaming, others like the ability for friends and family to stay in touch, and see relatives without the need for traveling. The emergence of Voice over broadband can mean cheaper phone calls, for many the ability to work from home all the time or just once a week, saves on travel expenses and means more time spent with family. The benefits may sound boring and mundane but too often the industry forgets that the UK is not a nation full of geeks who understand what ICMP and H323 are.

It would seem prudent before the industry rushes out masses of initiatives to push broadband and the use of the Internet, that some research is done as to why people are not using it in their droves. Maybe then the right approach can be taken, it is too easy once inside an industry to not see the wider picture. Looking back to find out what it was that made TV the must have device in every household, may reveal some interesting ideas.

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