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Is the creative industry holding back UK broadband?
Friday 29 May 2009 10:47:59 by Andrew Ferguson

The lasting impression from the recent Digital Britain summit was complaints from parts of the audience that there was too much infrastructure talk and too little on file-sharing and ensuring people observe copyright laws. The reality was actually the reverse, since the infrastructure debate hardly told us anything new.

The impression one gets from the latest 'illegal file-sharing' report and how some places are reporting things is that illegal sharing costs £120bn, but figures of £4 billion are mentioned as the lost sales from DVD's globally. Estimating the cost of file-sharing is near impossible since many downloads will simple be people building personal collections that they never ever would have purchased. The figures will also include people who are downloading material they already have a copy of, e.g. downloading an MP3 or FLAC version of their vinyl collection. The review titled 'Attitudes and Behaviours of Digital Consumers in the online world', which can be downloaded here, appears to make its conclusion clear from the first page with a price label, where £9.99 is crossed out and £0.00 shown. Some people will leech and never ever buy anything from an artist, others may be ardent concert goers downloading illegal recordings of a gig.

Places to download movies legally are appearing, but too often the cost is more than many of the DVD or Blu-Ray by post services and the file formats are limited by both the use of DRM and low bitrate encoding. The arrival of Amazon in the MP3 market has driven down pricing, with some tracks available for 29p each, and sometimes less if buying the whole album.

One saving grace for the media industry in the UK in relation to the file-sharing issue has been the adoption of usage limits for the majority of connections. Usage limits may offer one way out of the current catch-22, perhaps by offering an additional licence allowing consumption of music/video from any source where usage does not count towards the connections allowance. The big media houses seem keen on the broadband providers policing the traffic, how does one recognise the traffic of a user who has paid their PRS (Performing Rights Society) fees to stream music from a website, to one who is providing illegal streams?

One wonders how the authors of the report managed to fit 20,000 DVD films (nominally 5GB in size) onto a 1 TeraByte (TB) hard drive, even at high levels of compression only suitable for a portable MP4 player a film is around 0.5GB squeezing 2000 films on a 1TB disk. The creative industry is right to be worried though. People with broadband have the worlds media at their finger tips through their favourite search engine. Competing with 'free' is difficult, especially as the 'free' culture has been allowed to flourish. If the UK passes legislation that successfully controls file-sharing, there will be those who find ways around any control which could be as crude as a friend outside the UK posting them a hard drive every month or two. Additionally the UK is just a population of around 60 million in a world of 6 billion, i.e. just a drop in the ocean.


Posted by cyberdoyle over 7 years ago
I think you won't stop pirates, you have to make the alternative more attractive and at a reasonable price. Piracy invites viruses, but legal copies are far too expensive for kids so they turn to the illegal copies. The music industry will have to trim its sails to compete in the ocean of content which the internet provides.
Posted by comnut over 7 years ago
still the same tired old quotes about copyright then.... industry blaming the pirates, instead of the recession, and accessibility of media..

If pricing was drastically reduced, it would put the pirates out of business!!
YES, there are many out there who want an original DVD - you pay a high price, and then you still get 'unskippable' sections at the start ( I may expect this from rentals, but not a pristine new release I have paid good money for!!)...
Posted by comnut over 7 years ago
"authors of the report managed to fit 20,000 DVD films"

yeah sure... they were just 'pulling a nice big figure out of the air, like most of these industry complainers...
Posted by NICK_ADSL_UK over 7 years ago
The report is ridiculous it makes you wonder what planet their living on. The way i see it is these so called artists are no different to anyone else the public at the end of the day call the shots. You can listen to free music anywhere and legally same goes for films. you don't have to pay who needs to download when you can listen for free? If you need software for capturing songs/ films from the radio that to can be had for free. What makes a so called music /film artist think there any different there just like the current trend of mp’s GREEDY
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
YAWN..... Not the old Illegal filesharing excuses again.... (Goes back to sleep)
Posted by BigRedBall over 7 years ago
To the admins: you really should sort out the grammar in Andrew Ferguson's news posts. This post, along with most of the others written by him, is badly written - and nonsensical in places. It's also a little rambling.

It's a shame, since you cover interesting topics. But having to read things twice or three times, simply because the author has neglected to check if the sentences he has constructed actually make any sense, is a little annoying. I imagine that it also makes things more difficult for non-native English speakers.

I'm not trolling, I'd just like to see a good site improve.
Posted by Dixinormous over 7 years ago
I guess these 20,000 DVDs must be postage stamp sized video. 50MB a piece would be a kinda low bit rate indeed.
Posted by amforbes over 7 years ago
Nice to see them pulling facts and figures out of thin air again, the gravy train has been de-railed. It's time to face facts and accept that the days of milking the golden cow are gone.

Move with the times or die, allow digital copies of movies to be downloaded and reduce the price of new DVD movies. People have finally had enough of paying extortionate prices for movies when they can now get for free.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
quote"...People have finally had enough of paying extortionate prices for movies when they can now get for free."
Agree in part, I hardly ever go out and pay £15 for a brand new DVD release, I will rent it though. Older films 6+ months can often be had very cheap at £5 or less if you look around, I wouldn’t call that extortionate. If DVD movies or downloads were a penny each, there will always be a pikey and kiddie that doesn’t get enough pocket money out there and refuse to save and pay.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
There are a select few that wont pay for a single film or piece of music no matter what it costs, they claim they would but reality is they wouldnt. It is only a select few halfwits though and the whinge about those selct few from the industry is getting a bit old now.
Posted by zebedee over 7 years ago
Quote:To the admins: you really should sort out the grammar in Andrew Ferguson's news posts. This post, along with most of the others written by him, is badly written - and nonsensical in places. It's also a little rambling

(edited for space)

I'm not trolling, I'd just like to see a good site improve :Unquote

While appreciating your point, it should be bourne in mind that Andrew is an Engineer, not a Journalist :)
Posted by cyberdoyle over 7 years ago
I think the piracy issue is just to keep people off the main point, that the infrastructure needs sorting out. The more we focus on the copywrite issue the less we think about upgrading to next gen networks. Clever of the Carter team don't you think?
Posted by Dixinormous over 7 years ago
Indeed cyberdoyle, at times you wonder if telco accountants were dictating to the Carter team. Carter is a waste of space in this and other issues generally. We need experts, not industry whore PR men to make the big decisions.
Posted by mishminx over 7 years ago
Piracy is not native to broadband. Plenty of people were using file sharing apps pre-broadband. Even more people had access to copies of software. Windows 98 was flying round like confetti. As were playstation games and application collections on one disc.

So even supposing piracy trumps infrastructure and some conclusive means of curbing online piracy is found. There will still be the clever few who have access to content. End result being more pirated content delivered offline. In effect monetising piracy once again.
Posted by pdundas over 7 years ago
Cyberdoyle is right. What is REALLY holding back UK Broadband is a lack of investment in Infrastructure - we need faster connections.

That investment must come from ISPs - so they are holding us back. The farce of blaming iPlayer and users for wanting "too much" internet really needs to stop.

The UK is about 40th in average broadband speed (according to, with Korea averaging 18M/s and the UK a mere 4M (and that's from net-savvy users who know enough to test their usage).

It is time for more investment in the basic infrastructure, and less blaming the users.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 7 years ago
@pdundas spot on there! It isn't necessarily speed that is the issue, it is a reliable connection, and only fibre to the home can give us that. The legacy copper network is not capable of delivering next gen content to everyone. Therefore we need to roll out the fibre to the ones who are not sat on top of an exchange in a town. More speed will come through the fibre as and when we require more, it is a futureproof solution for digitalbritain.
Posted by chrysalis over 7 years ago
120 billion!!! they really are in a world of their own detached from the rest of us.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
Ah yes, the "faster for the sake of it" arguments. Again, there is good reason why FTTC and not FTTH is suitable for mass market home user adoption.

And no, cyber, fibre is /far/ from "futureproof". You do realise the severely limited lifespan of fibre in many deployments, right? Whatever you think of copper, it is proving itself in lifespan compared to the early fibre deployments.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 7 years ago
Dawn, I don't want fibre for faster, I want it for reliability, a connection, and the chance to upgrade the speed when I need or can afford it. I think copper is great if you live near the exchanges, so you stick to your copper and lets have fibre to the 3 million of us that can't get decent broadband. sorted. Fibre in ducts is cheap, if it wears out you just blow more through. The early fibre deployments are still the backbone of the copper network so they must still be working.
Posted by chrysalis over 7 years ago
cyberdoyle some people wont understand, when people talk about FTTH they think oh we dont need this new super fast headline speed and then write it off. They dont consider that it has numerous other advantages such as it will allow someone 5km from the exchange to get a stable connection speed the same as someone 100m from the exchange. Its always headline performance looked at only. More often than not the people writing of development are those who already have good lines, whether it be a short copper line, cable or a leased line.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 7 years ago
Hi chrysalis, you are so right, that is why I keep saying it isn't about speed, although fibre can deliver top speeds it can also deliver a couple of meg if that is all that is needed. It is like you say a futureproof (and cheap) way of making sure people a long distance from exchanges can get a great connection. Let us both keep saying it until the suits understand eh? They still think we can eat cake.
Posted by comnut over 7 years ago
"futureproof" is one of those words that cannot be believed these days, due to the march of tech... most of us thought freeview was that, until all the discontents fought for, and got HD...
yes sure it is still 'backwards compatible', try telling that to the guy who has just spent 3000 on a new TV, to find later it will not do freeviewHD... (while he is recording two other programs otherwise!)

Same with PCs and Net... Sure, you can keep the old PC, old speed, but all the rest of the 'content' will increase in size and expected speed, so making your old system virtually useless!
Posted by cyberdoyle over 7 years ago
@comnut yep, future is bright, and ever changing. All the more reason to keep up with it as best we can, and not go backwards or stay stagnant. Fibre is the best choice we have at the moment to supply quality connections to the people. Any other method is already out of date and should only be used in emergency. I speak as someone who is fed by wireless, and has also used satellite for 3 years. Fibre is our current saviour and is worth the investment to stay in the game. Who knows what will come next...? beam me up scotty.
Posted by loadbang over 7 years ago
I was at the Digital Britain Unonference in Birmingham.
Lack of decent broadband was discussed, and the outcome was that slow broadband was holding back creativity.

We are finding it hard to compete against companies abroad as they have a high speed internet infrastructure, meaning their work can be passed from one location to another over the internet. However, in the UK most businesses are stuck with 128-384kb/s upload, and then suffer contention issues with the ISP. We still rely on sending projects via snail mail.
Posted by loadbang over 7 years ago

It' embarrassing when a company from a 3rd world country asks if you could upload the 3GB video file to their FTP, it's like they expect us to have a 20Mb upload like them.
Posted by Whizree over 7 years ago
Surely, the answer to piracy of DVD's, music CD's and software is for the industry to get real and charge realistic sums for stuff. Why do Microsoft still want $50 per copy for Windows. If I want to help a charity then I can do it without anyone forcing me. The same with films and music, why do the producers and stars get paid so much? There's only so much you can spend in a lifetime.
Posted by HDRW over 7 years ago
Including anything to do with paying for media when considering broadband availability is like worrying about whether people will use the newfangled telephone for phone-sex with a remote partner rather than paying a prostitute, "as they should"! :-) The media industry doesn't have an inherent right to make a profit any more than any other industry does, and trying to get the government to protect theirs is not far short of corruption. I almost never buy CDs (and never DVDs) because they aren't worth the price. So their "lost" £bns are nothing but wishful thinking (= lies).
Posted by HDRW over 7 years ago
Future-proofing (which is usually futile!) needs to be considered carefully. Replacing an old (copper) technology with a new (fibre) one isn't future-proof, it's just moving forward a bit. I wonder if anyone makes an armoured small-bore duct that can be installed by mole-plough? It would have the durability of an armoured cable but instead of copper or fibre would have say a 10mm duct in the middle so that the data-carrying medium can be added to or replaced later in its life. If not, it's time someone invented it (and I want a cut!) :-)
Posted by KarlAustin over 7 years ago
Duplication and wasting money is holding it back - Digital Region is a good example, duplicating what BT is doing, but in a technically poorer fashion (VLAN per provider with all customers on, no L2TP termination) and providers have to backhaul from South Yorkshire. Waste of EU funding IMHO (and that of several other service providers).
Posted by chrysalis over 7 years ago
fibre is future proof, at least compared to copper it is. How long before gbit/sec will be outdated to the premises? Yes it wouldbt be future proof for eternity but then nothing is. When I upgraded my pc 2 years back I future proofed it but today its only an average spec.
Posted by otester over 7 years ago
This is about the government getting control of the internet.

Nothing to do with failure/success of businesses.
Posted by comnut over 7 years ago
It is the massive size of the company, and massive age of policy it has, that is holding it back...

The USA split up all theirs , and now they have to fight for their market, so you can demand satisfaction or else..:)

The gov. would not know what to do with the Internet - they are still in the old mindset of 'stopping people doing dubious things' - and forget that a 'library' will enable anyone to do exactly the same...

And of course, 'dubious people' know how to cover their tracks, so they will not be caught!
Posted by gbswales over 7 years ago
controlling bandwidth affects legal downloads and people watching legally broadcast video, not just people downloading pirated software. The music industry have been "driven" into providing cheap online media by the pirates - eradicate piracy and watch what would happen to prices! Lets not forget that we owe the advent of commercial radio to a bunch of pirates. Robbing the rich to make yourself rich is piracy - robbing the rich to give to the poor is social redistribution!
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
I am yet to see the argument for FTTH over FTTC which is in the least bit convincing. You get the vast majority of the benefits from FTTC at a tiny fraction of the cost of FTTH.

comnut - In America, many areas have one or two ISP's, you don't get any sort of real "choice". It's like it or no internet.

loadbang - If you're a business, you can afford a suitable connection. xDSL is unsuitable except as backups, as you well know. Any deacent business development will have higher speed options avaliable to its customers these days.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
QUOTE"I am yet to see the argument for FTTH over FTTC which is in the least bit convincing."

Id had thought the announced 40Mb down and 2Mb up BT are planning with their FTTC would be more than enough to show its a waste of time and space.

quote"comnut - In America, many areas have one or two ISP's, you don't get any sort of real "choice". It's like it or no internet."

That isnt true (well not as much now) Americans used to only have a single choice (EG comcast) but during the last couple of years many smaller ISP companies have sprung up.
Posted by carrot63 over 7 years ago
Carters "Digital Britain" is muddled in method and purpose. The purpose seems to be to show that Labour is competently steering the great ship 'Digital Revolution' rather than setting out what is useful or needed - politics over practicalities. The method is to listen intently only to those with very vested financial interests and assume every word they say is true, while ignoring those with a more realistic or socially useful agenda. The imaginary numbers from the file-sharing Nazis makes that entirely clear, dutifully...
Posted by carrot63 over 7 years ago
... parroted as they are by every govt ministerial self proclaimed expert, such as Andy "censor every clip" Burnham.

The conclusion will only ever be intended to sound good in campaign leaflets ("Making sure every hard-working farmer has access to broadband") and to ensure the fat cats keep writing the cheques to the party. Just about everyone else will be left wondering why they bothered, and go back to ripping CDs from the local library till sense prevails.

Posted by carrot63 over 7 years ago

Carter is as Nu Labour as they come, and his no doubt ideologically driven report will have as much bearing on reality as those of old Soviet Commissars reporting great leaps in production at the Murmansk tractor works
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
Carpet - And just as quickly gone out of business, per my American friends.

And sure, it's a waste of space elminating most not-spots and getting x5 download for most people. Right. Keep on rambling, Carpet.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
quote"Carpet - And just as quickly gone out of business, per my American friends."
Your American friends must be pretty simple there are hundreds of small ISPs in the states, most of the time they each cover their own tiny areas. The USA isnt much different in amount of providers out there, except most Americans use cable for their broadband
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
quote"And sure, it's a waste of space elminating most not-spots and getting x5 download for most people. Right. Keep on rambling, Carpet."

EVIDENCE it will reduce not spots please? I bet there will be serveral non broadband areas that still wont get fibre, just like many had to wait years for MAX 8Mb and many still cant even have that... but hey thats just another thing to make you look stupid about in the future.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
Herro, try and pay attention to the basics Carpet? With FTTC, absolute line lenght won't matter, it's distance to the cabinet - which is considerably shorter for the vast, vast majority of users.

Whatever I might look in the future, you make yourself look stupid now.
Posted by chrysalis over 7 years ago
perhaps if I donate a few billion and do some lobbying this idea will get dropped?
Posted by chrysalis over 7 years ago
CB it will defeintly improve the not spot situation and shorten average line lengths, eg. I am about 600meteres from my cabinet (indirect copper length) but the other 3km is from cabinet to exchange, so I would go from 3.66km to 0.6km and I expect my attenuation would go from 49db down to about 20-25db. So FTTC is a good thing, but its not very future proof, within 5 years it will already be showing its age, and BT will probably be barely finish deploying it by then.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
So BT should simply not roll out fibre, Chrysalis? Again, there is NO convincing economic argument for FTTH and without the stranglehold of regulation on BT we'd of had FTTC years ago...
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