Is this the start of something big in terms of Internet access for consumers and businesses in the UK? Today sees the UK government announce a review of the future of broadband internet in the UK. The review is set to be headed by Francesco Caio who is the former chief executive of Cable & Wireless.
To say that France is just trialling broadband services using real next generation technologies like fibre is a bit of an understatement, the impression one gets is that they are far from trials and are real products. Admittedly the coverage is patchy in most countries embracing fibre or other alternative connection methods that have a lifespan you can really call next generation. Hopefully any UK review will look at the different cases that exist across the UK.
A case can be made for the UK government to assist a private company or create a publically owned one that simply installs and maintains a new fibre based local loop throughout the UK. Providers can then rent capacity to provide what ever services they wish and with government backing perhaps a longer term view can be taken particularly in respect to the fact that while the need for the network is not compelling currently if work is not started very soon the UK will risk becoming an Internet backwater.
"The business case for next generation access is weak, Virgin Media already has a high speed network and Sky has a strong hold of the premium content that users might actually pay for,"Ian Watt, head of fixed-line research at Enders Analysis
While Virgin Media has its high speed network investment is needed to get the 50Mbps products that are designed to keep them ahead in the space race, and there is the question of what levels of bandwidth people can expect. Coverage with the Virgin Media network is such that it passes around half the UK households. The pressure from the public and businesses is such that products need to have true UK coverage.
Even with incremental advances in speed if congestion (due to low bandwidth allocation) is such that usage levels remain static, innovative new applications may not be able to thrive.
The UK government has stepped in to help one company and nationalised it to protect taxpayers' best interests, perhaps a nationalised fibre local loop is also in our best interests.