CLA calls for legal right to broadband

rural broadband cow broadband for all

Broadband for all?

You need a bit of stamina in this broadband punditry game. It’s such a complex situation that it is difficult to follow everything that goes on. Yesterday the CLA (Countryside Landowners Association) called “on MPs today to press Government for a clear and unequivocal ‘Universal Service Obligation’ that means every home and business in rural England and Wales will get broadband coverage of at least 10 megabits per second by 2020.” Broadband for all!

It was only in November last year that Dave Cameron said:

“Access to the Internet shouldn’t be a luxury; it should be a right – absolutely fundamental to life in 21st century Britain. That is why I’m announcing a giant leap in my digital mission for Britain. Just as our forebears effectively brought gas, electricity and water to all, we’re going to bring fast broadband to every home and business that wants it. That’s right: we’re getting Britain – all of Britain – online, and on the way to becoming the most prosperous economy in the whole of Europe.”

Dave was talking 10Mbps USO by 2020. I think you have to accept the politicospeak that comes with the announcement as par for the course.

What does need drilling down into though is the detail which politicians rarely cover and is what gets these idealist statements bogged down in the mire of reality.

  1. First of all who pays for this? Why should BT (other broadband providers may be available) be legally obliged to shoulder the cost of running connectivity to a farmer 5 miles from the nearest green cabinet.
  2. Offering alternatives such as satellite based broadband doesn’t cut the mustard.
  3. By 2020 10Mbps will not cut the mustard either – it should be 1Gbps.

In relation to point 1 we also have to consider the competitive landscape for broadband in the UK. We claim to have the most competitive market going. This is fair enough (probably – I’ve not really looked elsewhere but I think broadband prices in the UK are very low) but this is only in the provision of services largely running over BT infrastructure. There is Virgin of course but Virgin don’t have a wholesale play and certainly (and understandably) ain’t interested in running DOCSIS to farmhouses five miles out of town. Competition isn’t providing services to Farmer Giles.

It seems to me that the only way to do this is for UK PLC to have a state owned infrastructure company that just runs fibre to rural areas places that need it. This entity doesn’t sell services to end users. It just supplies connectivity to service providers.

It may be that this connectivity is just backhaul in many areas which is often the seed required for communities to look after themselves. We need lots of B4RNs. Maybe we need B4RN to spread to every bit of the country. There is nothing to stop the BTs, Skys and Virgins of this world from selling Over The Top services that use someone else’s underlying connectivity.

Having a state owned infrastructure provider won’t sit very well with this government. In fact it doesn’t sit very well with me either really – I don’t trust governments to do things efficiently and well if only because they get themselves entangled in their own red tape. Could Openreach be that state owned infrastructure supplier?

I think the penny is very slowly starting to drop in the minds of the powers that be but it has a long way to go before the light comes on.

There you go. Rant over for now. Check out yesterday’s post on the lack of UK national broadband vision.

PS note new image of cow. I’ve been using one from @Cyberdoyle’s farm for ages. Thought I’d have a change:)

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