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back to article Use your loaf, Europe! Eat more fibre - high-speed web lobbyists

Lobbyists demanding superfast web access in Europe fear the continent's economy could suffer if nations fail to hook fibre-optic broadband directly into homes. Hartwig Tauber, the director general of the European wing of the Fibre to the Home (FTTH) Council, told The Register that high-speed broadband uptake is sluggish because …

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Re: Fast connections

One big problem with FTTP is that it requres power at both ends of the connection. If normal phone service is delivered over it then the remote equipment needs to have built-in battery backup to deal with power outages, otherwise it won't meet the regulatory rules for service. That adds to the cost.

An alternative is to run the fibre in parallel with copper, but that adds cost for new installations, and you end up with a dual overlay network (one for voice, one for data) all the way to the home. That also adds to the cost.

All this talk of how important "superfast" broadband is also gets distorted by the fact that people like El Reg readers may care, but a large part of the population couldn't give a damn. My Mum was fine with 2Mbit/s capped at 2GB, and would have been perfectly happy with 512Kbit/s or even less. She was mostly OK with a 56K modem, except for the per-minute charging. For the large group of people that use the internet for email, Tesco online, and booking holidays, a low-speed flat-rate always-on service is all they need. They certainly won't want to pay more for "superfast" connections.

That may change, as on-demand video creeps in with DTT boxes, but to assume that everyone needs or wants 100Mbit/s low-contention network at home is simply wrong, and it is unreasonable to expect the cost to be shared out equally among all users. Those who want fast will have to be prepared to pay more for it.

China is a totalitarian state than can mandate what it likes (and I seriously doubt if such a mandate applies outside big cities anyway) but people in W. Europe prefer to have some say in where their tax money is spent.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Fast connections

Simple: China's building out their network from the ground up. If we didn't have a legacy of over 100 years of putting copper in the ground we'd be mandating fibre too.

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Re: Fast connections

"China is a totalitarian state than can mandate what it likes ...... but people in W. Europe prefer to have some say in where their tax money is spent."

So how do I go about making it known that I would like my tax spent on FTTP rather than on HS2? Or a third runway at Heathrow? Or a forest of wind turbines?

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Re: Fast connections

Vote for a party that is offering to do that. If there isn't one, start one.

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Re: Concur

@John

Go to China and try campaigning against any of those things happening, or for them to happen if it isn't. The resultant reeducation experience should help you understand the difference between a country where the government just about manages to try and do what the majority of people want at least some of the time vs a country where the government does what ever the hell it wants and tortures anybody who dares complain.

@ Phil

Great post. I would actually like to see fttp, mostly because I believe in the long run it will make financial sense rather than pissing around with half measures over and over again. The problem (and why BT won't do it) is that if BT dropped say 30bn on fttp for 99% of homes it would be forced to sell network access to other companies (and crucially) at a rate set by a quango. No sane company will splash out huge sums of money on capex when it won't have some control over how it makes the money back. Plus the funding sources would probably end up placing more restrictive covernents on BT which would leave them between a rock and a hard place. I'm not saying there shouldn't be some level of pricing control over a monopoly but BT aren't going to spend that kind of money under those conditions.

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I've always found it galling that the telcos assume everyone wants the cheapest possible deal regardless of service, and it must always be in some kind of shitty bundle. It's a race to the bottom and consumers are stuck with a pitiful choice. Take my money, dammit! Give me the service I want!

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Anonymous Coward

You do have a choice...

Go for one of the many enterprise level services available if domestic broadband isn't up to speed. Also, if you think there's no choice in broadband then you must not be looking too hard. I'd say the UK broadband market is pretty competetive.

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Unhappy

The bundling

They know you don't want it. It's a way they can make more money while fibbing to your face about how they're doing you such a big favour.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: You do have a choice...

Why the downvotes? If you think my advice is wrong then feel free to tell me why.

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Re: You do have a choice...

See I thought about mentioning in my op something to the effect of " there's nothing between the cheesy consumer packages and full on enterprise service". I would guess the downvotes are from people like me who want a full fat broadband without paying through the nose for enterprise uptime and other SLA considerations, and who also don't want forced tv/ phone bundling.

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Re: You do have a choice...

Bollocks, BT is a monopoly provider for the majority of the country. Sure I can change ISP, but the damp piece of string that is my broadband can only be BT, because BT made damn sure that no competitor could afford to get in the exchange. If you think there is competition in this country then you live in a city.

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Re: You do have a choice...

There's lots of competition at the exchange level - that's what LLU is all about. It's the last mile between the exchange and customer that's restricted to BT Openreach, but on balance that's a good thing. Can you imagine the disruption if anyone was allowed to start digging the streets for fibre?

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Re: You do have a choice...

Really; you don't.

Sure if you happen to live in a city somewhere where LLU is economic or where Sky or Virgin have fiber in place then you have a choice.

Unfortunately I don't. My local exchange has about 900 connections and we're 7 miles from the nearest town; so I'm stuck with ADSL and 'up to' 8 mbps. Despite the fact that Virgin's main fiber trunk passes within a mile or so of here it's still not worth their while to put connections in.

Any moment now someone is going to say that I should move house to somewhere there is FTTP if I care that much; unfortunately I can't afford the £20,000 it would cost (in fees and taxes) to move, even if I did think that having better broadband was more important than a garden for the kids to play in.

The point is that we shouldn't HAVE to choose like that, and that people living in farms and villages shouldn't find themselves cut off from the rest of the world just because rotten ADSL connections don't have the capacity to get them on-line.

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An unfashionable idea ......

If it is vital to the economy and an essential regional/national infrastructure, like roads, then why don't the government plan/make/fund it, like they do with roads? They could then hire it out to ISPs, and if it was worthwhile then a consortium of ISPs may even be willing to buy the completed project from the government.

One caveat: In the UK, BT would not be allowed to bid for the initial laying of this national fibre network.

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Re: An unfashionable idea ......

Point 1: Who pays? Taxpyer or broadband customer? "The Government" don't have any money, only what they take in from the public.

Point 2: If the govt own the network infrastructure, what's stopping them from implementing a content filter "for the children"?

Point 3: The government don't have the skills to plan and build large scale networks in-house, so they'd contract the job out to the same companies to the same companties your suggesting buy the finished netowrk.

Why not simply create an environment where those companies can just build the bugger themselves?

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@AC 09:14 Re: An unfashionable idea ......

You raise good points and I did make the comment hoping for discussion.

Point1: Who paid for the roads, the national grid, the NHS, etc?

Point 2: They could and they might. That would be for planning and discussion and El Reg would do it's usual job of keeping us informed (or inPhormed) I'm sure.

Point 3: Disregarding my tongue in cheek final comment, would it matter who built it?

"Why not simply create an environment ......."

Why not indeed? Why isn't it happening? How the heck did this country ever get a national motorway network, A-road system, national electricity grid, gas grid, water network, sewage treatment system, NHS infrastructure, etc? I am beginning to wonder.

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Re: An unfashionable idea ......

Point 2; they don't have to own it to legislate it. They don't own my car but they make laws about what I can and can't do with it.

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Re: @AC 09:14 An unfashionable idea ......

1: Again your not actually answering the point. What your suggesting is a massive government funded fibre network that'll cost BILLIONS. Roads are paid for out of general (and that includes motoring) taxes, the grid is paid for by electricity customers and suppliers and the NHS is again paid for out of tax. Which one would you cut spending on so that you can play CoD all night?

2: There's no might about it. At least with independent network providers there's a slight bit more of a hurdle in the wat.

3: It would matter who built it. Government doesn't have the best track record in infrastructure implementation (but is getting better) and if it was a govt scheme you just know that certain areas will get preferential treatment simply because it's politically expedient.

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Re: @AC 09:14 An unfashionable idea ......

Indeed. "Politics says no" is the new "Computer says no" excuse.

An important aim of government - good government, anyway - is to provide and manage high quality state-wide infrastructure.

Other countries get this, especially in the Far East.

In the UK we've had an endless succession of clueless econo-drones repeating the idiotic mantra that all government spending is bad. I have no idea who put these pinched-sphincter spendthrifts in charge of policy, but reality-based economists understand they're a menace to everyone.

The reality is that successful government projects are much better growth multipliers than anything the private sector is capable of.

Of course for 'successful' you also need 'well-managed' and 'non-corrupt' - which is unlikely, at least at the moment.

But it's happened in the past, and there's no physical or economic reason it couldn't happen again.

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@AC 10:20 Re: @AC 09:14 An unfashionable idea ......

1: I'm not answering the point because I'm asking the question. You say it's too expensive and we can't afford it. (Note: I don't play computer games and consume about 15GB a month. Don't try ad hominem stuff unless you're sure of the facts.) Others say it's vital for our future and will pay for itself in terms of increased productivity and economic activity in the future.

2. You might be right.

3. Another reason why 'it can't be done'. Oh well, I'll stick with 10MB/s down, 1MB/s up for the foreseeable future. I'm fine with what I have.

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Re: @AC 10:20 @AC 09:14 An unfashionable idea ......

1: I'm not saying it's too expensive or that the govt couldn't afford it, it's a question of priorities. If you want the government to fund it without any extra charges to joe public, then it has to come out of general taxation. If it comes out of general taxation some other expenditure has to be cut to pay for it. "paying for itself" doesn't take in to account the fact that you have to pay for someone to dig a hole and pull a cable.

So, what expenditure would you cut? Or what level would you set your "new fibre network tax" at?

2: we'll leave that...

3: If you want an example of Govt letting politics get in the way of infrastructure, pop up to hull and have a look at the Humber Bridge. A bridge from nowhere, to nowhere, used by a handful of cars and only built so Harold Wilson didn't lose a by election 1966.

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@frank ly

Didn't the romans do all that?

BT would consider fttp if they didn't know they were at the mercy of a quango . BT pretty much has a monopoly, the market wouldn't sustain more than one fttp network, hell ntl went bankrupt and they didn't manage to do the whole country and they only really did fttc (although it's possible to argue their buying spree aided in their original demise).

So you have a monopoly, by default fttp will not be cheap to the consumer. Not only is it just expensive to do, but BT would want to charge a premium on top. This would piss off 'the public' who expect it to cost 7.95 a month. Not you or I or the majority of the people who read el reg, but 'the public' in general, the type of keep Jeremy Kyle and Bargain Booze in business.

So they bitch, politicians smell a chance to win some votes, they whip the quango staffed with their cousins who couldn't keep down a job in Argos and the quango demands BT sell it for whatever cost they magic up after a fact finding trip to Manilla. So BT is then left screwed because their lenders require them to keep their business within certain performance criteria as part of the loans but their selling cost is dictated by a publicly funded halfwit asylum and they have to maintain a sizeable company yet their competition can sell their products for less.

Now remove the halfwits altogether and BT go back to charging a fortune and innovating at the pace of a rock. What they need to do is sit down and work out a fair amount for BT to sell it for wholesale in advance that BT can live with without it being too high for other companies or consumers, then guarantee they won't shaft BT by cutting the rates in half 2 years later. That requires common sense which appears to be harder to find than the Higgs Boson.

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Re: @AC 09:14 An unfashionable idea ......

Point 1. Have you seen the state of the roads recently?

The A43 between Croughton and M40 has persistent potholes. They are left to grow and fester for six months then they shut one carriageway so that some numpty with a bucket (or so it seems) can pour some spare tarmac into them and tamp them down a little. This time around I was hoping they'd redo the entire run but no. Just more fill-in - and barely tamped down at all. I swear that the surface of the B roads through Cottisford is now better than the A43.

And anyone accelerating up the hill from Barley Mow in the outside lane has to put up with several square metres where the top surface has gone. Been that way for several months. It took them over a year to fix the same damage on the inside lane.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @AC 10:20 @AC 09:14 An unfashionable idea ......

10% broadband tax... as long as google build a nation(s)* wide 1 Gb/s symmetric ipv6 only

* inc Wales, Scotland &NI if they are still part of the UK by then

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I don't know about my fellow readers, but I would actually give a weeks labour free to help pull fibre to the local houses if that's what it would take to get Britain a decent service, and I know plenty of people that would do the same. But the point is, we shouldn't have to do that, BT should be hanging their heads in shame over this, but it suits their business model, which has always been trading on the name and precious little else.

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JC_

Really? You're volunteering to spend a week digging ditches with a shovel and lifting concrete slabs? That kind of work isn't much fun at the best of times, and it's snowing outside right now.

This is what makes getting FTTP for everyone tomorrow a pipedream - laying down the cable involves a lot of work, a lot of disruption and a lot of money.

FTTC works pretty well, in my experience. New builds and areas where it's reasonable to upgrade should get fibre, of course, but 1Gbps to the home isn't a human right and no one should expect Openreach to throw away the cost/benefit calculations just so they can have fast broadband while living in the middle of nowhere.*

(*Yeah, I know there are some areas which have been unjustifiably ignored, and that sucks, but in general the prioritising makes sense; greatest good for the greatest number and all that.)

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Anonymous Coward

What JC_ said

There's no chance in hell of anyone tearing up their copper local loops in preference of fibre unless it's due to be replaced anyway. As my networks lecturer said "[within reason] it's not the cable that determines your service, it's what's nailed on each end".

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All I can say to that, is man up!

I spent 18 months pulling cable at T5, sometimes in the snow, on an airfield, and you know what, that kind of work is good for the soul sometimes.

If we're going to compete with the chinese, we're going to have to re-evaluate your kind of attitude!

Openreach should have become a public instrument when BT were forced to fracture. Then the cost/benefit calculations would be ours and not in the hands of parasitic profit seekers.

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Re: What JC_ said

In the case of fibre, that is absolutely true. Once you have a decent quality bit of glass to send the signals down, it is what's at each end that determines the speed. You can replace each end and increase the speed as the technology matures and becomes cheaper.

But with copper or aluminium then there is so much more to it than that, you are limited by the weakest link and that is bound to be said copper.

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> I would actually give a weeks labour free to

Thanks but that invariably means some digging work. BT cables do usually run in ducts but ducts can get blocked or collapse. If someone is going to dig up any roads I drive on or pavements I walk on I'd rather they have the experience and knowledge to avoid damaging existing infrastructure and to put them back in a half way decent fashion :)

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filthy degenerates

BT are run by vile people. If I ever see the guy who interviewed me at BT on the street I'm going to make him find out what I think of him.

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Re: filthy degenerates

With an attitude like that I think we can figure out why they didn't hire you!

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Re: filthy degenerates

this is before companies like BT destroyed my attitude. i went in there all innocent like maybe if i do a good job i can climb the greasy ladder or whatever. but i get there and immediately its like "listen sonny we're not gunna hand you the top jobs on a plate" and i'm like woah when did i ever say anything about being handed things on a plate? thats some bullshit YOU made up and put on me.

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Re: filthy degenerates

turns out because I was wearing a nicer suit than him, he thought I was a rich kid. Nothing could be further from the truth. Obviously the guy was a working class lad and not too bright --with a belly full of pork pies. He was one ugly guy. Seeing a handsome intelligent boy like me was probably too much for him. Certainly wouldn't want anyone like me around the place making that sack of shit look bad at his job... whatever the hell he did. He's probably dead now anyone. Coronary disease is a killer you fat bastard.

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Fibre my arse ...

Well, I tried to get Virgin and the whole road except my house and the one opposite can get it. Virgin came out and said the neighbours connection was one foot further away than they would extend. I offered to pay for the extra foot, no go.

BT upgraded the area at last to fibre and guess what, one cabinet was not upgraded as it was not economically viable ... yes, the cabinet myself and four others are on.

BT kindly advised me that there was no way to get your line moved from one cabinet to another, and that they have no future plans to upgrade the cabinet. If I want it upgraded, I will have to lobby my MP who of course will do sod all.

Therefor I am forever stuck on 2.5MB on a good day.

Absolute farce.

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Re: Fibre my arse ...

> one foot further away than they would extend.

I sympathise with you, but also with Virgin. If they have a rule that says "x feet", but bend it for you to have "x+1" then another neighbour will say "Oh, go on, x+5 won't hurt" and eventually they'll be handing calls from people complaining about how flakey their line is. Replying "well, we told you you were too far away" will of course only result in "well, why did you agree to install it, then?". They can't win.

Have you considered asking your neighbour if you can rent a cupboard in his garage, have Virgin install there, and then run some Cat5 or fibre (or WiFi) under the fence?

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Re: Fibre my arse ...

I did offer to pay the extra 1" for them and they were going to quote me but never did.

Mentioned it to me neighbour before but he was too scared in case something dodgy happened over it and he was liable. Also offered to pay half his costs and share the broadband with him. Still no go!

Their house is up for sale at the moment, so fingers crossed the new owners will be more obliging!

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Re: Fibre my arse ...

> BT kindly advised me that there was no way to get your line moved from one cabinet to another, and that they have no future plans to upgrade the cabinet.

The kind soles at BT can move lines to other cabinets.

They can when it pleases them to do so.

My housing estate currently has two cabinets, one at the top half the the estate and then there is the one I'm connected to for the other half of the estate.

Checking BT's availability site wanting to know when I can finally get FTC I notice that they are now showing the same cabinet number for the whole estate (you type your mates numbers in to find out) so although FTC is coming here eventually, the copper will go twice as far as expected, so the speed will be half what is expected.

Of course, BT don't give a fig as they'll charge people not getting the full benefit the same price as those lucky few who get a better service.

You canee break the laws of physics Captain, but it seems you can piss all over the normal laws of economics.

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fibre not the problem

I don't think fibre to the home is the problem here. I have a FTTC based VDSL product and it's connected at around 80Mbps, however if I'm downloading a file the download speed will only rarely hit 7MB/s usually I see 4-5.

BT have a FTTH product but it connects onto the same backbone as the VDSL so I'd wager a lot of the time the improvement is minimal.

At the same time the amount of data people need to download will plateau the big consumer of bandwidth at the moment is video streaming, but compression techniques are improving all the time. 80Mbps is already enough to stream native bluray content video can be compressed far better than it is on a bluray. Problem is that there are very few services that could cope with a lot of people all wanting to stream video at those kinds of rates.

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A few questions

1. Can someone explain why a typical household would need 100Mb/1Gb Internet access? ('Bragging rights' is not a reason.)

2. If everyone had FTTH and every user actually consumed 100Mb, how much bandwidth would be needed at the 'exchange' (not to mention the Tier 1 providers) to avoid contention issues?

3. If (as I suspect) there's only a tiny demand for such services, why should the poor old taxpayer be expected to fund them? It's not as though they're not available - it's just that they cost money.

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Re: A few questions

1: The only reason would be so that 4/5 devices can all stream HD movies at once. This will become more common, but an FTTC service could deal with that easily.

2: A truckload. Most (if not all) exchanges are fibre backhaul, and considering that even with the limited 8/24mbit links connections can bottleneck/be throttled back at peak times it's probably a massive issue.

3: They shouldn't be. If you want broadband then it has to be paid for. If you want damned good broadband then you have to pay more

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Re: A few questions

Personally I don't need that much, but because I work from home and video conference lots I just want more than 2.5MB (and that's downhill with the wind behind me!) and I'd be happy to pay for it myself but that's not an option either.

Anyone know how to get your line moved cabinet?! If you cancel your line and get a new one does it go to the same cabinet?! Can I Banksy them and change the numbers round?!

Damn cabinet 51 ...

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Re: A few questions

1 640K is more memory than anyone will ever need

2 It scales, doesn't it, when you upgrade infrastructure, you do the whole lot.

3 see 1

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JC_

Re: A few questions

1 640K is more memory than anyone will ever need

2 It scales, doesn't it, when you upgrade infrastructure, you do the whole lot.

3 see 1

That's a pretty good analogy. Back in the days of the 640k limit (1985, let's say) your modem would've been around 2400 Baud. So, both the PC and the modem were slow and limiting and this was obvious at the time.

Five years ago, home broadband was at least a few Mbps (unless you were unlucky) and a PC would have a Core2 Duo; most people would get by just fine on that same equipment today.

IMHO, the jump from 1Mbps to 1Gbps would be nowhere near as beneficial as the jump from 1kbps to 1Mpbs was; sure, it'd be nice to have, but what's the killer application that justifies the huge cost compared to FTTC?

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Re: A few questions

On demand TV, cloud hosted media libraries, remote working. clustered computing projects like SETI and Folding, bandwidth for the ever increasing number of devices in the home or office that use it, lower latency, less reliability issues......

It's obvious to me, that replacing ancient cabling, in some places aluminium, with glass is the way forward.

Hell, Japan, most of Scandinavia and a large part of Europe already have this. Some of them have had for ages.

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Re: A few questions

Can someone explain why a typical household would need 100Mb/1Gb Internet access? ('Bragging rights' is not a reason.)

Indeed I can. 10M should be plenty for everyone, but providing 10M to everyone is expensive and affects profits. BT have spotted that the countrys broadband network is judged by average speed, so -

Assuming that you have 20 million households connected at 2M thats an average of 2M. If you upgrade half of those to 10M you get an average of 6M for the cost of installing 10 million circuits.

However you can achieve the SAME 6M average by upgrading just 80000 households to gigabit.

So pick a few convenient cities where customers are densly packed, stick in fibre and voila a national average raised from 2M to 6M for a tenth of the cost. Wow, what a marvelous achievement! Except what it is is a marvelous bit of misdirection allowing BT to look like they are investing while actually continuing to make massive profits running the rest of the old network into the ground.

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as a business user I have to say that faster broadband would be a massive boost.

in general a connection speed of <1Mb would be perfectly usable and would happily support most of our usage however there are numerous times when a much faster connection speed would be useful and would reduce the time spent on bandwidth intensive jobs by an immense amount.

written while waiting for 300 x 50mb files to upload on the fastest connection available here (6mb down 468k up)

Guess I'll go and make another coffee now

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