Is this the start of the end of the road for the Internet explosion? Or just another sign of people tightening their belt?
The Office for National Statistics has released information showing the total number of Internet connections in the UK started to drop (PDF) in the 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2008. As an index where March 2005 is the baseline of 100, the peak was in March 2008 when we peaked at 119.6, but this has now dropped back to 118.4.
Digging a little deeper into the statistics reveals that the number of broadband connections is still growing, but that dial-up use is falling away rapidly, with it only making up 5.9% of the connections in the UK; this time last year it was 11.7%. So it seems not everyone who has given up on dial-up has installed broadband. One possible explanation may be people are saving money by moving their Internet use to lunch time at work.
The data on broadband connection speeds can be read in a couple of ways, either that the UK is really slow because 42.3% of connections connect at 2Mbps or less, or that the rise in above 8Mbps connections from 4.8% to 9.8% in the last quarter after being fairly static shows that people are buying into the high speed ADSL2+ and cable products that are available.
The data in the report is produced based on responses from Internet Service Providers but does not list which ones have provided data, although around 79% of those polled have returned data.
For those using this report to portray a nation in broadband disarray consider that until 2006 the majority of connections were sold on speed, so people saved money by buying a slower connection and there are still many who have either chosen to not upgrade yet or have never been offered an upgrade. BT Wholesale has something like around 20% of its connections still on the fixed speed 0.5Mbps, 1Mbps and 2Mbps products.
Perhaps we are just a nation fixated on statistics and surveys when what really matters is what each individuals connection is doing. Surveys of broadband speeds are set to become ever more complex with the rise of speed boosts that are not permanent.