ADSL availability not just a problem in rural areas
ZDNet UK along with other news websites are running items with detail from a British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) report. This report highlights the issue that while many urban BT phone exchanges are ADSL enabled, the businesses that are perhaps located on business and retail parks on the edge of the urban sprawl often are out of reach. Also even if they are in an NTL/Telewest franchise area, since these companies focus on cable TV for home users there is often sparse cable modem coverage.
The geographic limitations of ADSL are well known and understand in the industry, the standard limit of 18,000 feet (~5.5km) for ADSL is pretty much the same worldwide. The almost standard practice of building business parks on the ring road of a town puts the vast majority of parks too far away, and BTs reluctance to look at using signal booster technology that can double the range of ADSL does not help the matter.
While one can squarely point a finger of blame at BT, NTL and Telewest. Another finger should be pointed at the companies that invariably build the parks in these locations, five to ten years ago, the need for broadband Internet access for a small business did not exist. But in 2003 it should be the case that any new business/retail park built should come with suitable access already pre-installed, e.g. deals with teleco's to pre-lay fibre optic cabling to each business unit on a park.
One possibility that existing sites should consider is clubbing together to see if an aggregated leased line can be installed, and this then shared via wireless around a business park. The cost to a SME for a 64K leased line is around £3000 a year, but a 2Mbps leased line can be had for £15,000 a year, share this between 10 companies and the figures look much rosier. One example of this is Upton Magna in Shropshire. There are also companies specialising in installing wireless broadband with simple Wireless broadband in a box products. Alvarion is a company that anyone looking to attempt their own wireless broadband solution should look at.
There is no pretending that for a group of businesses to roll-out their own broadband solution, it will not be simple, but other groups have managed it in the UK. Given the situation that almost all teleco's are cherry picking the sites they give broadband too, if people do not get up and do something about it themselves, there is the real chance that broadband will just pass you by. If you run a small company, can you afford to miss out on it anymore? and if your neighbouring companies are saying the same thing, perhaps it is time for people power to bring broadband to their area.