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Push to increase internet take-up needs to be done carefully
Tuesday 17 March 2009 10:18:13 by Andrew Ferguson

Currently in the UK some 60% of households have broadband of one form or another, and of the remaining percentage some 55% have decided they do not want it at all. Ofcom boss Ed Richards features in the national press talking on this issue, in both the Guardian and Telegraph.

"55 per cent have decided they do not want it at all, even though they can afford it – we call these the 'self excluded'.

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. We need to tackle this challenge as much as tackle the challenge of low-income households who can't afford access."

Ed Richards (Ofcom CEO), talking to London School of Economics

There is a real danger that any campaigns to push broadband at people will be seen as having a political bias to them, and if people feel brow beaten into taking it up it may have the reverse effect on people. Providing help for those that want broadband but cannot afford it, has merit but already some view the push to make all national and local government services available online as a way for local services to be further eroded.

One interesting comment from Ed Richards was that a great many people lumbered with slow broadband now can increase their broadband speeds with simple and cheap changes to the wiring in their home. Regular readers of our news will know we periodically mention these issues, and they form the bread and butter of daily life on our forums. The worrying aspect is that broadband providers appear to ignore customers and not guide them through getting the most from their broadband. One great irony of increasing takeup of DSL based services is that as more lines carry ADSL and ADSL2+, crosstalk between lines can actually reduce the connection speed slightly.


Posted by Spectre_01 over 8 years ago
If 55% of people don't want it they don't want it, so what?!

I don't have Satellite or Cable TV, not because I can't afford it but just because I don't want it or see a need, does that make the news? Who cares...
Posted by pje1979 over 8 years ago
Why we need to persuade people who don't want something to have it is beyond me.
Posted by AndrueC over 8 years ago
Agreed. Mind you I also feel the same way about the push for high-speed connectivity. So many people screaming for 100Mb and as far as I can see it's just because they've heard that it's faster in <some country they've never visited> or they've somehow convinced themselves that it's the only way to save the free world.

If you want faster BB, pay for it. ISTM that most people do not want to pay for it and have no need of it.

I pity the poor sods on the outskirts and I wish speeds didn't drop so much on-peak. Beyond that I say write a cheque or cross some telco's palm with silver.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
Why? Digital divide and access to services. Also, bear in mind that just because, say, the parents don't want broadband this will also impact their kids.

Bluntly, there should be a "basic" 256Kbit product. It's more than enough for basic service access and research.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
sorry Dawn, but don't agree. we have a basic adsl service 'up to 8meg' and we get around half a meg which is twice what you suggest is enough for basic services and I can assure you it effin isn't. Research these days means watching tutorial videos or downloading large files. It just doesn't happen when it gets to peak times.
Posted by yobrenoops over 8 years ago
It is frustrating that a large number of those that complain of poor speeds are those with the router off 10m of extension cable because they "don't like the box being near the telephone".

This is just ridiculous.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
I think there are several reasons why people don't have broadband. As a hairdresser I hear people's opinions on every subject. Andrew - people don't scream for 100meg because others have it, others have a gig in korea. They scream because they can't do what they want to do on the connection they have, and they can't 'pay more' because a better service just isn't available. The majority of the current infrastructure is obsolete. Only fibre to every home will solve the issue for ever.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
A lot of connections are spoiled because of the home owner's equipment, but many are spoiled because of the length of phone line from the exchange, and adsl2+ will make those connections even worse. If the incumbent delivered what it is supposed to it wouldn't really matter that the people using it put a router 10 metres away. The feed would still be there, just like you expect a hosepipe to work at the end of your garden.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
you can lead an orse to water and all that... people hear about the good things you can do, and they try it and end up as users. The self excluded are made up of people who haven't the time or energy to get a connection, or learn about it. The way to inspire people is to make broadband easy to get and easy to run, just like water and electric. Currently unless you know someone who will help (usually younger family member) then getting a connection is a very frustrating exercise. I have seen it so many times across a broad age group. People on this board tend to be very experienced users.
Posted by herdwick over 8 years ago
"adsl2+ will make those connections even worse." - been at the wacky backy ? Long lines do better with ADSL2(+) for example 860k vs 460kbits/s at the same location (83 dB attenuation).
Posted by yobrenoops over 8 years ago

But your just espousing an, unfortunately, minority opinion. The issue is about commerical sustainability and a limited FTTC rollout to areas of high (usually urban) population is the best way forward.

People struggle to understand the true cost of these things sometimes. Some of the plans I see for a simple PSTN line to a farm in yorkshire run into ridiculous amounts of money! Yet BT (or Openreach in particular) as denigrated because of costs and timescales.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
aye,yborenoops, and if the proposed USO goes through then money will be wasted getting a copper line to a farm. The farm should get fibre, right back to an exchange where there is also fibre. £28billion it will cost to do the whole country. Cheap. The swathes of unemployed and immigrants can dig it in and that will save billions in dole money.Now is the time to build the eNdGAme network.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
Sorry, cyberdoyle, I don't see big video files on government sites, for example.

The choice is between them having no broadband, or a basic service, not no broadband or a service they see as expensive and uncessary.

Water, gas and phone have "basic" tarrifs, which have to be provided by companies. So should broadband.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
dear herdwick, 860k is great improvement on 460k but neither of those is real broadband now is it? Further down that line the service will drop totally, and probably sooner with adsl2 than with adsl. That is what I understood from the reports on 21cn. I think we are off topic anyway, soz
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
sorry Dawn, the internet isn't just to provide a service for govt to deliver their services through, saving them millions. It is for people to research whatever they want. Online learning and video tutorials abound, and they are great. Trouble is the connection isn't good enuf... they want the choice, but the choice isn't there. (unless they pay £76,000.00 for a 100meg WES to the village) NB YouTube has some fantastic educational videos amongst the funny stuff.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 8 years ago
100Meg WES for £76,000 so what makes this 100Meg suddenly drop to £60 a month when its FTTH or FTTC?
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
100 users would pay 63.30 a month if my sums are right, and they would have a great feed to share. Well its a start...
...a gig would be better
Posted by scootie over 8 years ago
by herdwick... adsl2+ will make those connections even worse." - been at the wacky backy ? Long lines do better with ADSL2(+) for example 860k vs 460kbits/s at the same location (83 dB attenuation)....

true but between 2mb and 4mb there is no improvment at all apart from upload which is varable rate. my adsl 3mb down has max preminum added which doubles upload on adsl and is fixed sync. iam sticking with adsl looking at trails plusnet are running
Posted by zyborg47 over 8 years ago
a couple I know is still on PAYG dial up and they keep getting letters and calls to get then to go onto broadband, if they don't want it then they should not be forced. People do what they want. As for ADSL2+ and long lines, it is not that great and can cause problems, ADSL2 may be better.
Posted by AndrueC over 8 years ago
I will apparently have to trouble-shoot a dial-up connection for my parent's neighbours next week. The difficult bit will be telling the difference between a stalled connection and a working connection.

My parent's line has ADSL with 22db attenuation and yet the neighbours are using dial-up. It's sad..but their choice.

Anyone remember how the Windows dial-up network stuff works?

Posted by Dixinormous over 8 years ago
76k for a 100Mbit WES?
Posted by bosie over 8 years ago
The equipment is too complex for many people, surely that's a factor as well. How many of us have had to rescue family & friends from the anomaly of routers and modems?
Posted by sadoldman over 8 years ago
I would be interested to know of those who do not want it how many a reasonably computer that perhaps where the bottleneck is...a fear of interacting with this new fangled thing called a computer?

Thinking about it there must also be an age related issue here I would have thought. How many young people would not pester their parents to be able to go online? Twitter awaits.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 8 years ago
How many members of parliament and Lords have broadband?
Posted by meldrew over 8 years ago
Just give the customer the choice and stop whingeing if they do not want it! In the old days it was phone first then internet next. Now it is probably the other way round. I know 90 year olds on line every day but there are plenty of younger pansioners who could not care less, my father in law being one despite being a Chartered Electrical Engineer!

Perhaps the best way would be to connect every landline to some kind of default low speed service, in on the line rental price, and see if there is a subsequent take up of faster speeds.
Posted by jumpmum over 8 years ago
sadoldman ; My Mother has used a computer for 7 years and is reasonably computer literate, has no use for BB as no wish to download video, porn, games, or access 'social' sites as has 'live' friends she talks to. Uses dial-up for e-mail and family research (which is no quicker on BB as poor response times at distant end). Costs about £2.50 per month. Could say she is too busy living to bother with a virtual world!
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
Hi Dixie, yep it is £76k for a pipe to our area with backhaul etc. The figures on the bt openreach site look tasty, but that is just the start of the job, on top of that you have to get to a datacentre and they measure by metres. our ongoing cost is £64k a year for 3 year contract. We can't get a WesLA so we have to have a WEES because we are so far from an exchange.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
cyberdoyle - Except, as a base, information access and services *do* work on a "slow" connection. Again, the choice is not "fast or slow", it's "slow or not".
Posted by Dixinormous over 8 years ago
cyberdoyle - This is why rural areas get expensive unfortunately. I'm aware of the incremental costs per metre. Those incremental costs you have are very much what I'd expect and are why a 'digital divide' is inevitable.
Posted by chrysalis over 8 years ago
ofcom going the wrong path still then, they see increasing takeup as more important than improving standards. Their comment about low incomes is worrying indicating they will keep trying to keep retail prices low. They forget internet cafe's exist for people who are happy with occasional internet use and that places of work offer internet access as well as libraries, for many people this will be enough.
His comment about rewiring sounds like hes speaking on behalf of BT just relaying what hes told to say.
Posted by chrysalis over 8 years ago
Andrue on your comments saying pay for it, many people are willing to do just that, but you are been unreasonable because currently there is no option to pay say £50 to £100 for higher speeds instead a consumer would have to for a leased line.
Posted by chrysalis over 8 years ago
cyberdoyle the up to 8 meg shouldnt be the basic product I agree with dawn on this. up to 8meg is a moderate burst speed, a basic product only needs to be upto 2mbit at the most, watching videos isnt basic use so as such would justify higher expense.
Posted by chrysalis over 8 years ago
herdwick adsl2 helps long lines, adsl2+ actually tends to hinder them.
Posted by chusan01 over 8 years ago
Wish we had this choice in Zimbabwe!
Posted by mickerickerous over 8 years ago
cyberdoyle is right, petty arguments about minor upgrades miss the point, step change required. If HMG can spend 10 billion upgrading the West Coast main line surely fibre to premises is a better investment. Stop the ageism, I'm 66 & computer literate
Posted by mikeblogs over 8 years ago
Perhaps Ofcom should read the action plan on the digital divide. HMG cannot hope to deliver future public services unless it is done online on a high speed connection.

Perhaps if regulation encouraged convergence specifically the delivery of legacy voices services on the same data transport as Broadband, folk would not be wondering why they are expected to have so many different subscriptions.

Ofcom will have no idea how to create a USO for Broadband.
Posted by leshewitt over 8 years ago
Just caught up with some old threads....

@cyberdoyle 14 days ago: "The majority of the current infrastructure is obsolete."

Dead right. The whole broadand service (apart from Virgin cable) is based on old copper wire. I think the boffins who developed ADSL have done the most amazing job to provide such fast links on such an old infrastructure.

Posted by leshewitt over 8 years ago
@cyberdoyle:Only fibre to every home will solve the issue for ever.

Right again. My 5mb ADSL contended with the neighbours is only just fast enough for the modern services. Mind you, forever is a long time! Just a few years ago 512kbps looked very fast compared to dial-up.
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