Mary Branscombe (marypcb) wrote,
Mary Branscombe

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No, fibre would be good for the economy

We've been hearing a mix of posturing and helpful comments from mobile operators and telcos recently, about rolling out fibre across the UK. When Ofcom stood up and said, in effect, we know it's expensive and we'll make it worth your while and BT replied, good-oh, we'll build it then, I was overjoyed. It's fibre to the kerb rather than fibre to the home to start with (unless you;re somewhere important, newly built or otherwise easy to glass to), but it's a start. 40-60Mbps rather than 100Mbps - well, better than eight meg DSL that feels like one on a busy afternoon. It might expose some of the same backhaul problems that will bedevil mobile data (I had a muse on that topic at our other blog today;  - and I note that Joss Whedon's Dr Horrible site is out for the count - but home fibre means the Internet is going to keep getting thicker and fatter pipes. I'm a fan of fibre...

The very first political broadcast I can remember noticing was Paddy Ashdown saying we should have a fibre network in the UK, to enable home working and the development of a knowledge industry. One of the delights of my job is that I get to dig into things that catch my attention and get paid for it; a couple of years back I wrote a hypothetical history of the UK technology industry we could have had if the fibre network had gone in. While researching it I realised my career in technology journalism might have been inspired by this proposal and asked Paddy Ashdown what other technology near-misses he'd seen. He replied he'd rather have had a database of human knowledge than the Millennium Dome. Wouldn't we all...

But the stock market response to the BT fibre announcement was much less enthusiastic. According to Telecom TV, "The City's reaction to the news was immediate and critical. In early trading BT's shares dropped back by 4 per cent to £1.95, their lowest level since the summer of 2005." Yes, I'm sure it will cost a lot to roll out fibre, but Ofcom has convinced BT that the regulatory framework makes it profitable - and let's face it, BT knows how to make money out of broadband. So why does the market not think fibre-fast broadband is a good thing?

Tags: blogging, fibre, pc plus, rant, technology, writing

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