Wasting Money On That Last Mile Of Broadband

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From our Swindon Correspondent:

From HuffPo

The prime minister came under fire from business and telecoms chiefs as the small print of the chancellor’s spending review revealed that planned spending on the roll-out of the technology (superfast broadband) had also been slashed from £5bn to £1.2bn.
Up to 5 million people are set to lose out as a result and critics have pointed out that high-speed broadband is needed more than ever during the coronavirus pandemic as home working becomes the norm.
Almost no-one needs high-speed broadband for home working. You need 2-5mbps for home working unless you’re doing something like downloading and working with massive data sets. Regular ADSL broadband is fine for voice conferencing, email, web etc.The main advantages of fibre are things like downloading massive games and that it’s more stable than ADSL.
But buried in this week’s spending review was a sharp drop in planned spending. The accompanying National Infrastructure Strategy confirmed the target of 100% of homes with superfast broadband by 2025 had been watered down to a “minimum of 85% coverage” by that date.
Government insiders say that the main reason for the change was feedback from some industry providers that the works on the hardest to reach 20% of homes could not be achieved within the PM’s timeframe.
This sounds about right. Not so much that Boris doesn’t want to spend the money and make a sensible decision, but that doing the last 10% is really hard. Putting down the fibre optic cables for a remote dog breeder in Wales is a lot of effort.

Some in Whitehall also claim that both the pandemic and the decision to exclude Chinese firm Huawei from future infrastructure plans have setback the scheduled works.

Ah yes, all that anti-Chinese protectionism means you don’t have the wireless alternative that probably works better in some places.
Craig Beaumont, of the Federation of Small Business, said: “Covid has shown that a good connection at home is fundamental for work and business.

“This is not good news for businesses in rural areas, nor those made redundant in the coming months who we hope will want to become self-employed and set up in business from their kitchen table.”

I doubt it matters because as I said, most people are fast enough. I work with 2 people right now in rural areas. Oxfordshire and right up in the wilds of North East Poland.
But let’s say that’s not fast enough for someone. People are going to find solutions. There’s an opportunity for pubs to fill this gap. Drive to one in a less rural bit with fast internet and work there. I think people might even like this as they get to sit with other people.
And the other thing is: Starlink. Fast satellite broadband. It’s already being tested and working and covering the 44th to 52nd parallels, which gives you roughly, south of Oxford covered. And they’re going to cover more of the world. For cabins up in Exmoor, this is a more sensible solution than laying miles of fibre optic cable.

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jgh
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jgh

And the other option: don’t live in the ******* countryside. Oh wailey wailey, I live miles from any infrastructure, why should I have the disadvantages of living miles from any infrastructure just because I choose to live miles from any infrastructure? Why isn’t there a Tesco Megacentre at the end of my lane?

Spike
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Spike

Yes. I moved to what used to be the woods (for a cheaper house), though I had to drive 20 miles to shop. My town spent ten extra years without cable TV due to the council’s insistence that any provider agree to wire everyone up on identical terms. And I made daily trips to the library to work the internet, accepting weekends off-line. It’s not that we should go back to those days, just understand the ruinous costs of declaring that service must be universal, that so-and-so is a “right.”

MrKing
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MrKing

Fairly reasonable if you are a townie who wants a countryside view. Not so good if you are one of the many businesses in the countryside who need access to the Internet. Not everyone is the former. Yeah, it probably cost a lot to get a phone to a farm back at the start but everyone wants some government honey these days.

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

If a business needs a Gb connexion, there are few places in the UK where they’re not available – for a price (which might be eye-watering, but that’s the price of a remote location). I don’t see why taxpayers should be expected to subsidise other people’s choices.

Spike
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Spike

A “business in the countryside” combines resources available at the site to offer a product it can sell for enough money to make a profit. If it survives at this, it might pursue greater efficiency, which might involve arranging for better delivery of inputs (including broadband) and might involve picking up and moving. If it does not survive, it’s not because “there was no broadband” but because there was no business plan to make a profit at that site at that time.

Nila24
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Nila24

That is one of possible solutions, but not the right one. In fact we do want for people to move out of cities – less congestion, pollution, cheaper housing.

Starlink IS the answer.

Bernie G.
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Bernie G.

Am 1.1mbps. At the end of a 6.0 mile copper cable that meanders its way over hill and dale. Uprating to fibre would be a six-figure investment, so I guess I’ll make do.

Esteban
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Esteban

By the time the gov’t gets around to whatever they think will help the world will have moved on anyway. Gov’t 2020 – here’s your fax machine!

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

“But we’re falling behind South Korea with their broadband speed!”

Conveniently ignoring the fact that in S Korea, most of the population lives in a few large cities and mostly in massive blocks of flats, where you can lay one fibre cable and hundreds of families get gigabit speeds (though what happens if they all try to use it at once could be interesting). Curse these Brits, who want to live in their own homes!

BlokeInTejas
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BlokeInTejas

Part of the year, I live in Normandy. Small village. Some folk there have ADSL, but there’s not even a phone line to the property. So the internet connection is a 4G wireless cell modem – a specialist box which is just a cellphone + wifi without any screen or phone. The French State recognises that there are underserved places, and graciously encourages the cell carriers to offer special deals – I get 200GB of monthly bandwidth for 50 euros/month. Flaky connection, but workable for most uses – except Zoom video conferences (audio’s OK). Gotta say that the official 200… Read more »

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

I bet there are small communities in TX (if not, there certainly are in the rest of the US) who would envy your French service provision.

TD
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TD

Sounds to me like a good argument for not building houses but rather forcing people into small apartments in huge buildings – something the planning profession has been trying to do for a few decades. Now they can say, it’s the only way to effectively provide everyone with superfast broadband, and we want society to have superfast broadband (and not live in houses). Will they also give up their love of commuter rail if they figure everyone will be working at home?

M M
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M M

No of course they won’t give that up.

I think of planners as the ones who played SimCity (the original) and thought, “Hey trains everywhere works!” (including a train to pick up your garbage…)