The first question is do we even need it? Broadband is being promoted as heralding a brave new world of streaming video, SME e-commerce and interactive TV. One of the arguments for slow take up is the lack of content. Well I don't what you can see but from where I sit the internet looks pretty damn big! And hidden in there is an awful lot of content that works better with high bandwidth. But before we get too carried away, the real benefit is having the Internet always available.
There's three stages to net use. First a dial up modem. At least in the UK this means paying for every minute, flaky connections and slow response. It gets you online, but it's painfully slow and always in the back of your mind, is the cost you're racking up. Second is an always-on connection at say 64Kb. This radically changes the way that you use the net. Having the net always available frees you up to start treating the web as just an extension of your PC. Third is when you get always-on high bandwidth. Now the difference between local and remote begins to disappear. All that heavyweight content like Audio and Video files becomes easily available. You start using remote documents rather than copying them locally first. and so no.
But while most net access in the UK is via modem, the big change here is between the first two steps. From modem to always on. this is the change that revolutionizes how you treat the net. So why don't we use it. Well it's being held back by three factors.
1 Cost, cost, and cost.
2 Inability of the telcos and ISPs to ramp up for the demand.
3 Complete lack of marketing.
The second two clearly are a factor and BT has as much to do with that as anyone. But the real issue is the first, always-on internet is just too damn expensive. As ever we're focussing on the early adopters and fleecing them while the Telco's and ISPs try and work out how to cope with the very real but currently potential demand. There's a price barrier here somewhere around 10 pounds per month. When broadband gets below this I can confidently say that demand will be much bigger than anyone expected. The current prices of 50-100-150 pounds per month are absurd. And they were absurd when they were being charged for ISDN.
So if BT and BT provided broadband is too expensive, hard to get and unmarketed, what other options are there? Well if you live in a town, then there is generally cable available. Now here's a surprise, NTL and Telewest have been promoting cable modem access at 25 pounds per month for 512Kb or 15 per month for 128Kb. And demand is accellerating. NTL expects to get have 100k customers before the end of the month from a total of 1m cable customers. Unadvertised and hidden in the small print is an even more amazing offer, 64Kb for a fiver a month. This is more like it. At that price there's no excuse for not taking it. So *if* you've got cable access go and take advantage of it. And to all the other cable and ADSL providers, go and copy it.
But then we have all the other people in the country that live just off the beaten track and can't get cable. but that's for another day.
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