How glorious from Mr. Chakrabortty

My word, those bastards eh?

Yet, as Cochrane points out, only one part of the British Isles actually has superfast broadband running at 1 gigabyte a second: Jersey, which ran the entire thing through its publicly owned telecom company.

Wiring up 98,000 people on 120 km2 of land is to be compared to wiring up 65 million people on 244,000 km2 of land eh? I mean, seriously, he\’s comparing wiring up Dagenham to wiring up the entire nation.

Damn, you could have wired up Jersey using a pack of ferrets let alone a publicly owned telecoms company. In fact, way back when Cable and Wireless did in fact wire up The City using a pack of ferrets.

This is your money that\’s being wasted, yet BT doesn\’t think you should know where it\’s going. Speaking to the Public Accounts Committee last month, one expert estimated that taxpayers were putting in 77p of every pound going into rural broadband (BT disputes this figure). In Sweden, country of forest and islands, a comparable project had required a maximum of 33% from taxpayers.

Yet government officials who have blown the whistle on BT\’s opaque charging have been sacked, and community groups who have tried to lay their own broadband connections have found themselves under pressure from local councils.

Given this level of public subsidy and the lack of any real competition, it would have been far simpler and possibly even cheaper to have done this through a public entity. But 21st-century market-fundamentalist Britain must always run a race, if only to give a gold medal and a massive handout to the one competitor that actually ran.

BTW, guess who Jersey used to wire the island?


BT is rolling out its superfast fibre network across the country and the Government has pledged to subsidise part of the programme, but some critics are unhappy about the way it sells wholesale access to the technology.

Yes, BT.

31 thoughts on “How glorious from Mr. Chakrabortty”

  1. Yet government officials who have blown the whistle on BT’s opaque charging have been sacked, and community groups who have tried to lay their own broadband connections have found themselves under pressure from local councils.

    So government officials are being sacked – presumably by other government officials – for whistleblowing and local councls are putting pressure on the citizenry to get with the programme. And this is evidence the government should be involved to a greater degree?!!

  2. Ooh, ooh, this is my field, so I can actually say something with a smidgen of experience behind it.

    Sweden (and the other Scandinavian countries come to think of it) have splendid coverage in their big cities and suburbs in the south and precious little elsewhere. You’re far, far more likely to get some ropey old bundled copper product rather than a nice piece of fibre once you get outside Stockholm or Oslo, and even then there’s a very high chance there’ll be some extra costs once the site is properly surveyed, etc.

    UK compares fairly well in comparison IMO, unless it’s the middle of some windswept hell-hole in Scotland – C+W, Virgin and BT will bid on most sites.

  3. BT are really awful though. Slow, inefficient, contemptuous of their customers.

    Like a nationalised industry, in fact.

  4. Actually, us “market fundamentalists” were saying the government shouldn’t get involved at all, not recommending a corporatist clusterfuck.

    I also take the cynical view that “rural broadband” is in truth less about ensuring Farmer Giles can download his whatever a bit faster, and a lot more about ensuring that the urban ruling class have city level services at their dachas in the Crimea.

  5. Hats off, though, for avoiding implying that Jersey is part of the UK. Mind you, the credit for that goes to Cochrane not the Gruaniad.

  6. Complaining about BT is a national pastime. A bit like the NHS is the national religion.

    I fact, despite not being absolutely perfect in all respects, it’s pretty good and nothing like as bad as the complainers would have you believe.

    My unlimited broadband connection (3 miles from a small village exchange) is about 3Mbps and reliable. My previous supplier, Orange, couldn’t manage 2 from the same exchange was on/off all the time and when I cancelled continued to attempt to charge me for months afterwards.

    I live in rural Cumbria so don’t expect BT Infinity anytime soon but 3 Mbps is fast enough to enjoy the Berlin Philharmonic’s Digital Concert Hall and the New York Metropolitan Opera subscription service in HD and BT Sport looks pretty good too.

    I had to deal with BT when my mother died last month. Closing her account was met with courtesy and efficiency and the final bill was 89p.

    The complainers below the Chakrabortty article need to get out a bit more.

  7. Not a massive fan of handing out goodies to BT for something they are likely to do anyway: there’s good money in reclaimed copper these days and the maintenance costs on fiber are far lower. You couldn’t justify running it to every house, but to the cabinet is something that’s happening anyway

  8. Why are we subsidising broadband for yokels? Seriously. Why? I would have thought our host and readers of this blog might ask the question.

    First we subsidise them for growing stuff we could buy cheaper from New Zealand, then we subsidise them for not growing stuff, now we subsidise them for their life style choice of living miles form anywhere, not growing stuff.

    Tell you what, you let us frack or build houses, you get broadband. Till then, entertain yourselves as before.

  9. Philip Scott Thomas

    …there’s good money in reclaimed copper these days…

    Didn’t Tim have a post a while back that concluded that the total value of BT’s copper cabling was worth more than BT itself?

  10. Can anyone explain to me why 1Gb/sec is any more than willy waving? As a couple people say above, single figure Mb would seem to be ample for most needs. Does anyone really need the capability of downloading a movie in ten seconds? Seems a strange priority for a country can’t even achieve reliable 3G data services outside its major cities & not always in them.

  11. BIS, we need it to get as much porn stashed away before Perry’s Wall goes up. It’s alright for you lot in Spanishland, you can carry on wanking at your own leisure. Us lot, we’ve got mere weeks. Weeks!.

    So far I’ve archived as far as 1974’s “Die Busen Madchen In Dem Schule-Finischng” (dir: Dieter Fuhrburger, Studio Deustcheporno) but right now every bit per second helps.

  12. Yeah Ian. I can see why you’d need the biggest pipe possible if you haven’t got as far as Lola Ferrari. Point taken.

  13. Very fast Internet is primarily useful for commercial customers. Domestic consumers really don’t need more than 50 Mbps, say. Being able to whang lots of data around between head office and the datacentre is a very good thing, but 50Mbps is a dual-layer DVD’s worth of data in 25 minutes i.e less time than it takes to watch the movie. It’s not something the government needs to concern itself with, other than easing the regulatory burden of installing capacity as much as possible. If Worzels want high-speed broadband, then they can bloody well pay for it, or move to a town. I notice, too, that this Chakrabortty ringpiece makes the typical mistake of calling it a ‘public good’.

  14. Agreed with David – we have 100Mbps fibre and the difference between that and 8Mbps ADSL for surfing is minimal. Ok, large downloads are much faster but for the average web surfer I doubt it’s a dealbreaker.

  15. A consumer use for huge data speeds that I could think of would be on-demand gaming (solves the piracy problem quite nicely) but it’s hardly a national priority.

  16. The comments above along the lines of ‘why do you need more than x Mbit/sec?’ remind me of Bill Gates’s famous ‘no one needs more than 640k’ comment. There is, however, a subtext to this faster broadband stuff. Some people in positions of influence in this game seem to believe that we could transfer broadcast TV and radio to fibre pipes and sell off those lovely chunks of spectrum they currently occupy for lots of lucre to the Treasury. Personally I think that’s a total load of ripe elephant poo but if it finally gets me something better than vanilla ADSL2 then I’m not going to complain too strenuously.

  17. David Gillies,

    So it’s back to my query about yokels. Head office might want/need superfast, but not yokels?

  18. It’s actually quite useful if you can get it. If you’ve got a family situation, let’s say Mr and Mrs Perry.

    During the day, usage is only moderate. But once Mrs Perry goes to bed, you’ve got the husband and three children all downloading their porn at once in different rooms, which requires a good steady high speed connection.

  19. Luke, it doesn’t matter who wants it. If there is a use case for, say, gigabit Internet then fine, but who pays for it? This does get quite expensive, quite quickly. If everybody’s got 1 Gbps of bandwidth, then when that gets aggregated onto the trunk, you’re talking a very fat pipe. Say you have fifty households. The highest SONET bracket, OC-768, is roughly equivalent to 40G Ethernet, and it is very costly. 40G is the sort of speed that fabric switches are running at in high-end datacentres. They’re a couple of thousand dollars a port right now, and then of course you need something to fill that fat pipe. It’s no good having huge bandwidth if the server you’re talking to is starving the connection. A streetful of people with these superfast connections is going to need all the concentrators, switches, head ends etc. that go along with the fibre. It’s a very costly undertaking.

  20. Sorry, beyond my knowledge, but does fast broadband for yokels cost more or less per yokel than it does for non- yokels? Ie 90% of population.

  21. More, because connection distances are longer and premises that need connecting are more spread out. There’s also very often infrastructure (like ducting etc.) that can be re-used in urban environments. A really staggering cost of provisioning broadband is the digging of the trench for the cable and making good afterwards. It’s of the order of hundreds of thousands of quid per kilometre.

  22. DG. Ta. You have confirmed my prejudices., which I suppose is a good thing, being that they are my prejudices, rather than others’.

  23. One of the bloggers down here in Oz has dubbed this country’s attempt at a national broadband network “the national pornband network”, pointing out it would be cheaper and easier to mail DVDs of porn to Alice Springs on a weekly basis than to provide them with broadband for the same purpose.

  24. Tim Newman,

    “pointing out it would be cheaper and easier to mail DVDs of porn to Alice Springs on a weekly basis than to provide them with broadband for the same purpose.”

    I think it would actually be cheaper to truck them the real thing! Once they have mega-fast broadband, what on earth will all the skimpy’s do for a living?

  25. Skimpy’s are barmaids who are very poor and so can only afford to buy the bottom half of a bikini. Or very forgetful so they come to work without their shirt on, A sad state of affairs and the clientele are very embarrassed and never call attention to their failings but sometimes tip generously. To help them in their plight you understand.

  26. These young women tend to be employed in mining country bars- Queensland and the Northern Territory and W.A. Kalgourlie,, Darwin, perhaps you are too evolved for the mining life?

  27. Too old more like it. Thanks for that. I lived in Sydney for a while but I didn’t notice any mines. Or bars with partially dressed barmaids.

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