Parliament TV Digital Britain Stitch Up

Representatives of BT, Vtesse, The TalkTalk Group, and Avanti Communications appeared before an AdHoc Committee of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills yesterday.

The guests appeared to support the 2Mbps target for Broadband Universal Service and moreover kept repeating the phrase Universal Service “Commitment” as opposed to Universal Service “Obligation”. As readers will be aware Digital Britain Minister Stephen Timms has already reaffirmed that USO is where the Government is at. The panelists may have had their own agenda here or not keeping up with the times.

I also hear “we don’t need faster broadband today”, “we should let the free market decide”, “it is very difficult to say what people will do with higher speeds”, “it wouldn’t be public money well spent”.

In my mind there is a significant level of “heads in the sand” here. Yesterday I was looking at HD TV streaming speed requirements and 17Mbps seemed to be the requirement for the BBC’s output. Multiply that by the number of family members wanting to watch in their own rooms…  There are no doubt codecs (MPEG4) that support good quality at lower speeds.  However the point is that 2Mpbs doesn’t cut it.

UK plc needs to get more aggressive in the global internet game.  The video evidence is available here.  I didn’t watch all 2 hours so there could, I guess, be some revelations after the 40 minutes mark that you might like to hear for yourselves.

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  1. There has been plenty of hard evidence produced recently by nations where 100Mbps etc is norm showing exactly what happens when you give people the levels of connectivity – they use it! And in some quite surprising ways eg much more use of upload than down. Recent stats on http://5tth.blogspot.com plus in the blogroll on there)

    If we keep allowing private companies to dictate what the market decides, it never will be a free market. And the USO/C of 2Mbps is a joke anyway. We are, it seems, going to permit mobile companies to infill in rural areas where they KNOW the technology cannot deliver that and it will only be “best effort” to get close.

    For all those currently getting on and JFDI, keep going!! This country needs YOU.

  2. I am halfway through writing a response to the debate I watched yesterday, I was disgusted and appalled at the narrow mindedness and the way the people who were witnesses skirted round the questions to fulfill their agendas. And when one of them said it would be best effort and 1 meg would do I nearly popped. I am just an ordinary grass roots volunteer, helping as many people as I can, and yet even I know the difference between a 2megabit usc and a 2 megabyte one, which one questioner and 2 witnesses didn’t. Mindblowing. This digitalbritain lark is a mockery. Don’t any of them do their homework? It is simple maths when all is said and done. They even quoted ofcom figures saying 99.6% of the country is broadband enabled which we know for a fact is not true, they are just connected to a broadband enabled exchange. Big difference. I despair of getting through to them that this country has not got the infrastructure to cope, and handing out public money to enable telcos to use BET is a scandal waiting to happen…
    o my.
    do something tref!
    chris

  3. Trefor Davies tref

    We’ll have to think about how to get the message across better chris. how about a march on Westminster from all points of the compass in the UK – areas that don’t get broadband.

    You could then have a conference where people are allowed to put forward thinking points across and also have demos of advanced services that make use of higher speed internet connections.

  4. too big a carbon footprint tref. too many people would attend. that’s if we could let them know it was happening, which we can’t, because they aren’t online. LOL. In fact very few people are happy with UK broadband, as most just go for cheap ISPs and suffer massive contention, throttling and capping. so we could have an uncontrollable riot on our hands.
    no.
    we’ll have to think of a better way…

  5. Mike K

    I had a look at the Video recording, and I must say the nature of the debate was weak. I will copy anyone interested a list of things that need to be added to the Digital Britain report, which I will send to the committee.

    I am astonished at the Talk Talk rep Andrew Heaney. The Talk Talk service is configured in such a way as to be just about functional for browsing, certaintly no headroom to support large numbers of customers accessing a live event. There peak capacity is less than 20Kbps per user. He will never know if people are willing to pay more, because the limitations of the service allow no room to play. In addition TalkTalk(+Opal) will be sold off next year so Carphone have a vested interest in insuring NGA (which bypasses their LLU assets redundant) is slowed down. See Ofcom August consultation on NGNs.

    It is also my opinion that an over focus on speed only (one dimension) creates its own problems, because speed alone does not deliver a quality home working experience or a good telecare service. As it stands the plans for FTTC will means we will get more of what we have today, more best effort, forcing people to continue to pay for legacy services.

    Going from a USC to a USO does require real investment as your stating that our data conenctivity is now a critical asset and its going to be used to transform healthcare, education delivery and make a greater contribution to changing our travel habits. You could never realistically use a Talk Talk engineered service to host a critical service. It, like all the other retail broadband offers has few guarantees and non publish their planning rules.

    Many points were missed but the industry should be shouting at Government, that if a USO is to happen, then it is driven by critical service delivery- not the collection of taxes. This demands plans and commitments to change how education, health and transport are delivered. I will expand on fixed /mobile convergence, the replacment of legacy voice with mulit-media communications.

    The 2Mbps, could be a 2Mbps symmetrical service engineered to support low latency applications. That 2Mbps could be within these 40 or 100Mbps service.

    The fact the debate has been about speed rather than outcomes has meant industry can manage its legacy and gain extra but really marginal revenues from best effort broadband. The fact that Broadband is best effort means policy makers can avoid the difficult job of service transformation, continue to tax the industry rather than invest.

    There is a fear of transformation. NGA makes Carphones investment in LLU redundant. NGA should lead to far tighter integration of fixed and mobile networks, and should lead to the replacement of the legacy PSTN and mobile voice services. It should mean the GOv does not auction radio spectrum to the highest bidder, but create a split between data transport providers and service providers.

    I keep reading about our communications being fit for purpose, without any purpose being outlined. If purpose is another word for outcome, then the current generation of connectivity are mere appetisers to what is actually possible. Users understand this. Everytime we put £60 petrol in our cars we know how unfit for purpose our connectivity is.

  6. Mike K

    I have a blog on the 50p and the sale of Talk Talk Broadband
    http://broadbandbritain.spaces.live.com/default.aspx

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