Digital Britain plans face uphill struggle

Lord Carter’s plans to get every UK home and business connected to fast broadband connections before the 2012 Olympics may be more of a challenge than previously thought, according to new evidence this week.

Lord Carter’s plans to get every UK home and business connected to fast broadband connections before the 2012 Olympics may be more of a challenge than previously thought, according to new evidence this week.

Research conducted on behalf of the BBC by broadband advocates SamKnows found that up to 15% of homes in the UK are still receiving broadband at under 2Mbps.

Traditionally, it was thought that many homes with slow connectivity were located in hard to reach, remote areas of Britain, but it has now emerged that many thousands of customers located in the commuter belts of major cities are also getting no bang for their buck.

“We had assumed that these ‘not spots’ were in remote parts of the countryside. That may be where the most vocal campaigners are but there is a high incident of them in commuter belts,” SamKnows co-founder Alex Salter told the BBC.

This has the added effect of severely hindering peoples’ ability to work from home, touted as a key cost saver for many businesses during the recession.

Dave Millett, founder of communications consultancy Equinox and former operations and marketing boss at Inclarity, agreed that aspects of the SamKnows research were concerning, but argued that desired broadband speeds were tied to what people needed to do online.

“For a basic work from home set-up, if you need to make one VoIP call you don’t need much more than 50K,” he said. “If you’re a graphics designer lobbing massive files about, or streaming video content then it becomes difficult.”

Millett suggested there would be an impact on certain business types, particularly as the cloud takes off, and slow broadband will definitely make channel sales pitches harder.

“Say you’re planning to migrate a business to VoIP in six months when they have better broadband availability, but then the time comes and you can’t deliver,” he said.

Lord Carter’s Digital Britain report, preliminary details of which have been circulating for some time, is expected to be released in full next month.

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