Get orf moi broadband!
Michael Phillips, the Product Director at ConsumerChoices.co.uk, has today called for Government action to redress the balance between townies and rural users when it comes broadband. He says that "recent analysis has shown that we have a distinct first and second class society in the UK when it comes to Broadband speeds. Rural areas are getting a raw deal when it comes to their home broadband service and coupled with the 'out of area' service charges many broadband providers apply, they are suffering a double whammy."
Well, I am a rural broadband user and while it did, I have to admit, take a couple of years longer to arrive in my village than in the nearest market town a few miles away, it is here now and working well. I get an average speed of between 3000 and 3500kbps, which is not stellar by any means but god damn if it isn't fast enough for sending my email, browsing the web and even streaming the (very) odd bit of video when the wife is out.
My ISP, Zen, do not apply any additional 'out of area' service charges just because I chew straw and eat with my hands, and I do not feel like a second class netizen it has to be said.
But, argues Phillips, "rural users are relying more heavily on their broadband services following the decline of their local services with banks and post offices closing out of town branches at an alarming rate. The internet is now a lifeline for many in rural areas as they do not have access to a number of key services available to city dwellers."
Nor do they have access to the same public transport network, but we do tend to have cars which get used rather a lot. As far as online supermarket shopping, and pretty much every other e-commerce scenario I can think of, even my 'I'm considerably more rural than you' brother-in-law with half the speed that I get manages to get by just fine. There is no need for a 20Mb/sec line just to buy your bread and milk.
Even if you go all Mystic Meg and predict an immersive 3D online-shopping experience around several corners, a slowish broadband connection will suffice. I have spent hours within Second Life on a line that hovered around the 1Mb/sec mark and can't say that I suffered greatly in the immersion stakes as a result.
"The Government must take action now to improve internet speeds for rural communities and not rely solely on market forces to drive change," insists Phillips, concluding "Internet service providers are unlikely to improve the infrastructure in rural communities on their own volition due to the lower population catchments and therefore lower commercial potential. Replacing the existing and out dated copper wire network with 21st century technology is key to redressing the balance. This is a national problem and needs a national solution."
But is it, really, such a massive problem? Sure I would not kick faster broadband out of bed, but then neither would I suggest for one minute that the lack of a Korean speed connection is high on my priorities when it comes to things the government should be doing.
Any other rural readers out there? What do you think?