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The future of UK broadband

The government hopes that the broadband of the future in the UK is superfast – investing widely in new connections and the improvement of the network to bring high speed access to households and businesses throughout the country.

The government hopes that the broadband of the future in the UK is superfast – investing widely in new connections and the improvement of the network to bring high speed access to households and businesses throughout the country. However, with 10.8 million people not online at all, there are widespread claims that the investments should focus on widening access to the internet, not increasing the speed for those already connected.

According to a survey by Ipsos MORI of both individual users and business clients, it was found that 64% of those asked thought that good basic broadband across the whole country would be better than achieving super speeds for only a few. Moreover, whilst 79% think every household should be able to get an internet connection, just 24% think the policy which has people in rural areas pay higher prices is fair. The government plan at present is to enlarge the superfast broadband access to approximately 90% of the country and to deliver their promise to create 2Mbps connections by 2015. Few would deny that the internet and regular access is central to every day modern life, with mobile devices and home connections being used for both social and commercial needs. However, the feeling seems to be that the government have become too concerned with high speeds at the expense of accessibility and programmes of education for the public.

One other significant change potentially approaching in the future of broadband is a modification to pricing structures. The watchdog Ofcom has asked for changing to the policies of Openreach, the access division of BT who control the network and can currently charge other providers for use of their wholesale services. Due to the fact that BT have previously had the monopoly of the telecommunication market, Ofcom have been monitoring their prices to ensure fair trade. It has been proposed that ‘charge controls’ be introduced on a selection of Openreach facilities. Ultimately, this would lead to reduced prices at the point of the customer, with savings being passed through the chain from the wholesaler onwards. Potentially, the future does not just include faster broadband but cheaper service, too.

At present, BT offers a ‘fully unbundled’ line to properties already connected in an Openreach exchange. This means that alternative telephone providers can install their own equipment to serve that household, in the existing exchange. A ‘shared unbundled’ package means BT continue to operate the telephone connection for voice calls, but the internet broadband connectivity aspect is transferred to the alternative telecom company who again are able to install their own equipment into the exchange. The third option available from BT Openreach is ‘wholesale line rental,’ whereby telecom companies rent the line in the exchange from BT and are able to provide both internet and telephone services.