Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Move Into Those White Open Spaces

Nearly twenty years on and I sit at home in a large village in Wales watching my Sky broadband connection run at 11Kbps (yes, not a misprint, 11Kbps, less than the first modem). This is down from a reliable 2Mbps two years previously. Greedy, unscrupulous opertors like Sky, TalkTalk and BT will sell broadband packages in the full knowledge that customers will get a paltry service as they pile more and more revenue onto the same resources with no investment. This is immoral, should be illegal and OFCCOM should be doing something about it immediately.

Nearly twenty years on... There's something very wrong in this. House prices in the area are now being hit as home workers move away and, aparently the first question new buyers now ask is not the view or number of bedrooms, but the connectivity.

The Welsh Assembly Government have taken a Big Society approach to the problem by worthily making grants available for rural broadband schemes, but this usually depends on there being a local propeller head with the time and ability to pull together a service. Poorer areas are likely to be the ones that suffer the most.

The fact is that this is a problem that could be easily solved nationally for the cost of a cancelled aircraft carrier. In the US Google has launched a tool to show us how. White space is the bandwidth freed up when analogue TV signals were turned off.

To its credit, the Government, under OFCOM's auspices, has made this frequency available in the UK, but left it up to the market to populate the marketplace with services. It should have taken the opportunity to break the absolute monopoly held by BT, and furthermore leveraged a condition on the recent 4G licence auction that all mobile operators contribute towards a new capillary infrastructure that would benefit rural dwellers, emergency services, the NHS and Government itself in the delivery of services.

Instead we have some fantastic local initiatives making up a broken patchwork of haves and have nots which is almost worst than what it replaced.