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Has Ofcom been studying our polls?
Friday 11 January 2013 15:47:08 by Andrew Ferguson

In a week where we have had one think tank say that we are focused on speed too much and that universal coverage is more important it seems a discussion held by Policy Exchange and attended by V3 turned in a discussion on speeds.

"It [the 2Mbit/s base] was determined by a range of factors about what was deemed necessary at the time to have a basic internet experience and that's how we arrived at 2Mbit/s...

That's clearly no longer the case, it's more around 8-10Mbit/s now and this will evolve over time, so it's unlikely that would still be sufficient in 2020."

Ofcom group director for strategy, Steve Unger

The current plan is that 2 Mbps will be the baseline speed for broadband in the UK at some point in 2015, with everyone having access to a service at that speed. A further EU target for 2020 is a speed of 30 Mbps, meaning that even with the spending on the USC there will be further work, and the UK Government has already earmarked £300m from the TV Licence fee for spending on broadband between 2015-2017 and more funding should be available from the EU.

Our own polls show that the visitors to thinkbroadband would clearly like the USC to be in the region of 8 Mbps to 20 Mbps. Given the original 2 Mbps requirement was debated and set back in 2009 under the previous Labour government and then not revised in 2010 after the General Election there certainly is scope for a change. The problem now being that with funding already allocated to projects and contracts signed, changing the goal posts will be very difficult.

Perhaps the best way forward is to try and ensure that on projects that are spending money to meet the 2 Mbps USC, that technological dead-ends are avoided. Certainly the installation of broadband repeaters that may cost £1000 per property and only give 2 Mbps speeds should be avoided where at all possible.

There is a dangerous game that could be played, and with the Ka band satellite services now offering 18 Mbps connections, it would be very easy to change the USC and then hand out vouchers for satellite service installations and claim job well done.

If the opinion of Steve Unger is also held by others in Ofcom, then what needs to happen now is for Ofcom and other bodies involved in Internet regulation and funding to ensure that plans for improvements in the time frame 2015 to 2020 are actively started, so that once the current wave of USC and superfast projects come to an end, that focus can be concentrated on the areas where speeds are slowest. Given that it has taken from 2010 till the very end of 2012 for the first BDUK cabinet to be deployed, the time frame is clear that if we wait until all the BDUK and RCBF projects complete there will be a two or three year period of political debate with little change in physical delivery of broadband.


Posted by herdwick over 4 years ago
2M is sufficient to stream the BBC iPlayer et al, and to fill in Government forms, do your online shopping etc. As a "social service" minimum appropriate for taxpayer funding it is still sufficient.

Sure, we would all like more, but should we tax people to provide it ?
Posted by RuralDavid over 4 years ago
2Mbps is now inadequate and pretty much limits one person to using it...maybe less than one! As to 'should we tax people to provide it' - should rural taxpayers contribute to Crossrail? Should low paid Cornish farmworkers be taxed to help fund HS2?
Posted by GMAN99 over 4 years ago

I'm not sure that is the same thing though is it? That is a transport example, a public service. Its like me saying why am I paying for libraries, I don't use them.

Broadband is a personal perk
Posted by RuralDavid over 4 years ago
GNAM99: That's a rather narrow view of public services and I prefer the Wikipedia definition. Electricity, the fire service, public broadcasting, public libraries, public transport, telecoms etc are in. Hairdressing is out.
Posted by undecidedadrian over 4 years ago
But the Government still views Broadband as a "perk". There are no hard and fast rules governing broadband as that as the voice side.

Perhaps the USC should also contain a stricter framework for resolving broadband faults etc and make it more like the voice side.

I do object that TV licence money is used, that is specifically earmarked for TV and radio and now the digital switch over has happened that money should have gone to providing better coverage for freeview. 40% of the country still doesn't get a freeview signal and a lot of that figure is Urban.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
If 40% of the country cannot get freeview, then I would expect there to be a very big amount of complaints at the various TV type places I hang out.

Posted by GMAN99 over 4 years ago
So bearing in mind many families cannot afford to heat their homes and many families cannot afford to feed themselves (huge increase in foodbank usage) do you think we should be spending huge amounts of money bring high speed broadband (fibre I assume) to rural areas.

Is that the best use of money?

If Satellite access can provide these speeds then surely the solution should stay the same, for those had to reach areas it should be Satellite I'm talking remote remote a few houses scattered
Posted by GMAN99 over 4 years ago
Funny that you mentioned electricity, I also assume gas? So if you had no gas would the state pay for a new pipeline to your area, I think you know the answer
Posted by chrysalis over 4 years ago
herdwick what about home working, and social and business advantages. Plus if my taxes were going to something I would expect it to be future proof.
Posted by mervl over 4 years ago
We all seem to have acquired the modern idea that life is a pantomime where you snap your fingers and lo things appear as if by magic. They don't. The roll out of utilities took decades, and is still on-going. Broadband has been much faster than any previous roll-out. It's always a moving and incomplete "target" So I'd agree with a move towards 10Meg as basic over time, but then I think you hit the big problem with the internet which is the lack of any "need for" content. (Which is not the same as saying you can't find something to use up more speed on if you're desperate enough).
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
The need is that dot.Gov wants us to access things like tax disc renewal online as cheaper for them. Which means even if they spend money on broadband it will save them in the long/medium term.

To that extent simple billing websites are fine at 2 Mbps.

The sale to the tax payer is that basic catch-up TV will work.
Posted by Somerset over 4 years ago
Where does the 40% Freeview come from, or do you mean all the DTT multiplexes, which is different. The non PSB broadcasters did not want to fund the expansion.
Posted by NilSatisOptimum over 4 years ago
What about the skype type trials in Powys with Health services if successful rolled all over Powys etc, to be first contact with GP, no doubt whole lot more too.

I dont know about you lot however I would like my Internet to be reasonable quality and not a grainy jumpy affair. I was not aware that seeing Health professional was a perk. Yet!
Posted by GMAN99 over 4 years ago
It isn't, you can see a health professional, in person as well I'm sure it would lead to a better diagnosis

The gov is only interested in providing a basic service to fill in forms etc
Posted by mervl over 4 years ago
What's all this about 10meg speeds necessary to fill in forms? I managed home working, e-banking, shopping and tax returns on a sub-2 Meg connection. My 10Meg wireless service allows HDTV streaming. If some people can't wait or want to do everything at once, I dread to think what they're like in a traffic queue, and it must be fun with several people steering the family car in different directions at once! A time management course might be more useful. As for e-consultations, won't the insurers prevent it due to the liability risks of misdiagnosis?
Posted by mervl over 4 years ago
And Andrew, just as an example, on what evidence do you base that its a cheaper use of resources to have an e-renewal of a tax disc sent through the post than renew at a post office? (And my local PO has a big poster begging customers to renew at the PO rather than on-line to help them stay viable . . . so they're wrong to do so are they?). Things aren't as simple as they seem, methinks.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago

Shows expected transaction cost savings.

The issue of lack of business via local post office is a wider one, and I suspect if it was not for a small online site called ebay there would be lots more problems.
Posted by AspieMum over 4 years ago
herdwick, if you have 2 or 3 children doing homework online (that is already happening in some schools) 2MBs won't spread to the parents doing banking and definately not Facebook. On 1.7MBs one download can kick someone else off the net with only 3 PCs connecting.
Posted by AspieMum over 4 years ago
GMAN99, can those struggling families be expected to pay for expensive satellite broadband to be able to claim top up benefits because they are paid a pittence or are full time unpaid carers, for example, because the government is setting up UC as digital (ie online) by default. Many can't even get any broadband & if they can its less than 1MBs.
Posted by AspieMum over 4 years ago
RuralDavid, what about the money the government are spending on fast broadband for cities. Some of that comes from people who can't even get 2MBs or any broadband.
Posted by AspieMum over 4 years ago
GMAN99, broadband is a 'personal perk'? Tell that to those the government want to apply for their benefits online or their children's school wants them to use the internet to find out what their homework is or even do it especially with so many libraries closing so less out of the home options to do this.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
Libraries as a source of physical and e-books and a drop centre for universal access to broadband are something that should be developed.

Posted by RuralDavid over 4 years ago
AspieMum: Quite. I'd have thought those with no/slowest access should have been helped first. And of course, reliable internet access is no more a 'personal perk' than access to postal services or the road network.
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