Scrooge, Bandwidth, and Marley’s Ghost

The Scrooge-like attitude to bandwidth of BT and cable TV providers is coming, like Marley’s ghost, to haunt us.

How many times one remembers the reply of BT spokespeople who, when asked why they don’t provide higher data rates, would ask: “What would people do with it.” It was a sneering, patronising reply which implied that, somehow, people couldn’t be trusted with higher data rates. But, as the PC industry has shown, whenever people have been given more and more technological capability they have always found a use for it. Now the Broadband Stakeholders group (BSG) has found that the UK is lagging behind economic rivals like France and Germany. Although the UK has more low-speed (up to 8Mbips) broadband users than any other G7 country, the average UK broadband speed is only 4Mbps whereas the French are putting in 50Mbps systems and the Germans 100Mbps. “If other countries get a lead it will affect our economic competitiveness”, says BSG chairman, Kip Meek. The trouble is, whereas a few years ago the telecoms industry was swimming in money, now they are facing a harder and harder economic climate as competition bites, domestic landline call prices reduce to near-zero and non-traditional new players come in like Skype and Vonage. So no one has the dosh to build fibre to the home which is the only long-term way to deliver hundreds of Mbps across the country. What’s to be done? The BSG hasn’t a clue. It’s only the messenger.

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