Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ferrari, Ford, or Trabant?

It's front page news in the Financial Times today. Ed Richards of OFCOM droned on about it somniferously on Radio Four this morning, while interviewer Sarah Montague sounded very irritated with him. OFCOM's latest update on broadband speeds is going to be picked apart by the media ad nauseum, and I couldn't be happier about it.

Repetition is a good thing where consumer education is concerned. For years I've been hoping that Clive Sixpack would take a look at the parlous state of UK broadband versus its neighbors and get annoyed, because annoyance is frequently followed in this country by quiet muttering, and in some cases by a demand for action, or even a good punch-up. Hopefully the Daily Mail will take hold of the story and run with it, without attributing the problem to illegal immigrants, as it seems to do with most issues.

I'm joking here, but my point is serious - this is a golden opportunity to make broadband a genuine populist issue to demand change. One of my colleagues came up with the idea for a campaign to encourage subscribers receiving only 40% of their nominal line rate to submit only 40% of their nominal tariff every month, which I quite like.

I don't think there's anything here that people who follow the industry haven't at least suspected, if not known outright, and the spectrum of operator suckiness is almost precisely what I expected when the previous SamKnows report was issued. Still, it's nice to see the worst offenders named and shamed publicly, though I suspect their customers are well aware of their failings already.

The big winner here is Virgin Media - clearly acknowledged as superior, the BBC Radio Four news story intro this morning even highlighted that the study found "broadband by cable is better than by phone line," which is the sort of PR you can't typically buy, let alone get for free. I suppose Lord Carter must also be feeling pretty good. If the average speed delivered in the UK is 4.1Mbps, then Digital Britain's "vision" of 2Mbps for all is virtually in the bag, three full years ahead of schedule. Job done, time to move on!

It's a sad irony that, just as we reach a point where the flames of public discontent can be fanned effectively, the government will have the luxury of shrugging and pointing to empty coffers, while just up the road, construction continues on an Ozymandian project, the cost of which equates roughly to one-third the total bill for FTTH to every home in the country. Never mind, we're building a legacy here, just ask the Athenians. And when things go wrong with the subprime self-cert mortgage which is our future, we can pile into the broadband Trabant we've bought and seek opportunity elsewhere, at 4Mbps per second.


Ignition said...

Blimey I've heard more enthusiasm from someone who is on their way to their own execution.

Although saying that for all his talk about discussing things with the shadow cabinet I think this New Labour man's thoroughly New Labour organisation may well, thankfully, be on its' way to their execution.

In other news how exactly are Ofcom encouraging investment by publishing this? Perhaps they should be lobbying the government to remove some of the rather lofty barriers to investment rather than merely publishing results from speed tests and droning disinterestedly on about how the UK is fine, we're not late to fibre, etc, etc.

James Enck said...

I was channelling Brigstocke at the time

Ignition said...

Sadly I couldn't channel anything, I was too busy drowning in deja vu.

GuyJ said...

Sound post James.

With smart deployment and intelligent future-proof design, FttH for the UK is less costly than the encumbered incumbents let on.

Perhaps Cameron will dare to sack the Olympics, learn from the Ancients, base the traveling circus in one place (Athens?) and fund mutual community-interest FttH and FiWi projects instead.

That £10B budget will fund FttH for the vast majority of the UK, if allocated wisely...

Anonymous said...

when carter was doing the digital report did everyone forget the ElReg story about him way back, indicating you should NOT be trusting this man !

as a reminder the highlights for you to use today as you please.


"Number 10 spinner fingered in NTL investor 'bullsh*t' suit

By Chris Williams → More by this author
Published Monday 14th January 2008 12:50 GMT

The man Gordon Brown hopes will pull the government out of its popularity slump was accused of deliberately misleading investors over the financial status of NTL when he was its COO.

Documents filed in a New York class action suit - the cable firm was listed on Wall Street - claimed that after a 2001 conference call Stephen Carter was asked "how can you... persuade investors to believe that NTL is going to be OK when you know it isn't?"

He allegedly replied: "What I tell them is nine-tenths ******** and one-tenth selected facts."

Carter was poached from a City PR firm and appointed strategy chief by the Prime Minster last week.

The case was settled for $9m without admitting liability by an insurance company acting on behalf of Carter and nine other directors in 2006."