Thought for the day:What price broadband?

Hard-hitting IT commentator Dr Simon Moores gives his personal take on the hot issue of the day.

Hard-hitting IT commentator Dr Simon Moores gives his personal take on the hot issue of the day.

Sensible pricing for broadband has been a long time coming. E-envoy Andrew Pinder believes that the conditions are now in place for us to overtake Germany - Europe's broadband leader - very swiftly indeed; a possible 3-1 to come in 18 months if you prefer a football analogy?

Pinder has been encouraged by the take-up of broadband services in the opening months of the year. The UK has around 400,000 broadband customers, signed up to the cable networks of NTL and Telewest and to the DSL service offered by BT, which has picked up 16,000 users since its recent price cuts.

In contrast, Germany has 2.2 million DSL subscribers - half of the users in Europe - so a return match against the Germans is well overdue.

A year ago I observed that it if you lived inside the embrace of the M25, it was very easy to imagine that we all shared the same connectivity potential, through the availability of satellite, cable and DSL on a local basis. But if you travel outside the major cities, the story can be a very different one.

Almost half the population has yet to join the Internet revolution and the government is working to solve the different technical and commercial challenges of bringing the Internet to the population in much the same way as the telephone spread through the country and changed people's lives nearly a century ago.

One tricky problem, yet to be properly solved, involves making broadband available in rural areas further North than the leafier parts of Surrey. As the cash-strapped operators, such as BT, don't see why they should pick up the bill for a service that would struggle to be even vaguely commercially viable, the government has been forced to set aside £30m to subsidise the expansion of the service to less populated areas.

This week, e-minister Douglas Alexander revealed a number of projects that aim to introduce broadband services to areas that include Yorkshire, Humberside and parts of the Midlands.

This is, of course, a start, but in real terms, even in a country as small and overcrowded as the UK, I wonder if £30m is more of an encouraging political gesture than a practical solution to the problem of broadband Britain.
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Zentelligence: Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and ramblings of the futurist writer, broadcaster and Computer Weekly columnist Simon Moores.

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