Thursday, February 21, 2008

Out In The Fields...

I've no idea where this came from, but the following bulk email just landed in my inbox:

"Letters to Congress are pouring in, but they haven’t heard from you yet. In less than 24 hours, more than 30,000 people urged their representative to support the "Internet Freedom Preservation Act" (HR 5353), an important new bill that that would turn the tables against Internet blocking and censorship and make Net Neutrality the law of the land. "

Well, for US readers, the argument is easy - vote for the donkey if you're in favour, or for the elephant if you're against.. But the market is likely to make up its own mind in due course.

In the UK, and other small countries, this is an interesting argument, since no one is investing in the internet backbone in the UK, a direct result of net neutrality. This has a particular impact in rural parts of the country.

So, let me come off the fence and say that the UK's broadband backbone should be nationalised and then leased out, with revenues re-invested. As it stands, we're back to 1999 when BT was flogging ISDN when the rest of the world were being sold ADSL. Only centralised investment can overcome this antipathy in a country as small as the UK.

OFCOM recently proudly announced that over 60% of the UK's exchanges had some local loop unbundling (ie where there is more than one provider), but they're in the most populous areas and are still dependant on the same backbone. So, what about the rest of us who live in the other 40% - rural, of course - where fuel prices are rocketing, broadband is restricted, you can't get digital radio, let alone TV and have the dogs of BT loose on us to scrounge the poorest parts of the country for desperate marginal revenues?

My experience of the BBC does not bode well, and the rail model proves that public ownership without the right commitment and investment is actually a bad thing, but I still believe that broadband, by now, should be a right, not a luxury. Just like television.

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