Useful stuff, yes, but marginal improvements in speed are, well, marginal Credit Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images

The Daily Mail is reacting with horror to the thought that the UK has slipped down the broadband tables. We’re only 35th in the world for average speed now! The correct answer to which is that yes, of course the UK’s broad band speeds are slow, we’re a developed and rich country. Which doesn’t mean that yes we’ll have the latest in shiny infrastructure. Rather, it means that we put in infrastructure some time ago and thus have the infrastructure from some time ago. You know, having infrastructure being one of the things which makes you a rich and developed nation?

Britain has slipped four places in the world broadband speed league, leaving its network lagging well behind the likes of Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary and Romania.

The UK is the sixth largest economy in the world but has dropped to 35th in the rankings after being overtaken by France and even Madagascar, according to the latest analysis.

As other countries rush to install fibre-optic cable networks which are capable of providing superfast download speeds, much of Britain continues to rely on old copper telephone wires to connect homes to the web.

Well, yes, the point being that we had a copper based network which went to pretty much everywhere. Thus we’ve not rushed to put in the fibreoptic because we’ve actually not needed it. Hey, sure, maybe it would be nice. Maybe it’s something we will install everywhere in the future. But we’ve not done it as yet because there’s not been a pressing case for that investment.

You see, our forebears already invested in the copper for us.

The fastest broadband speeds are in Singapore, which is renowned as a global technology hub. Its average figure is over three times faster than in this country, at 60.39mbps.

Second place goes to Sweden, ahead of Denmark and Norway. Perhaps surprisingly, Romania comes fifth in the league at 38.6mbps, which is more than twice the speed achieved in Britain. Other poorer countries where speeds are well ahead of the UK’s include Slovakia, Czech Republic, Slovenia and Andorra.

The Scandis are a little different, they having governments that just love to spend money. The other places are either urban – it’s easier to run the fibreoptic to the base of a series of tower blocks than it is to every hamlet – or they’ve recently been poor. Poor to the point that they never really did have an operative and useful copper telephone network. Thus they didn’t have a system that could be bodged (ASDL etc) into providing a reasonable broadband speed. So, in order to have it at all they had to go and build a network for the first time.

We already being a much richer nation, already had that copper network. Maybe having the network is what made us richer, maybe we spent our riches on the network, doesn’t matter which way around here. But it did mean that the arrival of the internet didn’t require festooning the country with glass wires. Yea, verily, it might even be true that we now should do so. But we’ve not had to as yet. So, therefore, we haven’t.

There really isn’t, or at least shouldn’t be, any surprise that the already rich countries, those that had extensive copper networks before the internet, haven’t raced to build out fibreoptic networks. While poor places without that extant infrastructure have. Simply because us rich folks already had the copper network which was good enough for a time at least.