Rural Broadband - High Fibre Diet

16 Feb 2010
Posted by admin

Lets set the scene; - 40% of the East Midlands population live in rural surroundings as do 30% of businesses. Broadband speeds of 2Mbps are rare in these communities and throughput often limited at peak usage times due to exchange congestion. Compare these data to the typical urban environment where the average speed in 3.7Mbps and throughput will often approach this figure even at peak times. How then is it possible to run a rural businesses or for school children to do their homework given these constraints? With great difficulty is the answer and to put it bluntly, places these groups at a disadvantage and exemplifies the digital divide.

The recent Digital Britain report gives little comfort to these groups simply because a "guaranteed" 2Mbps connection to every household and business by 2012 will be at best the equivalent of "dial-up" by 2012 and more typically prone to frequent disconnections and increased throughput constraints. So all is lost, isn't it?

We'll actually no, RDA's and active communities across rural Britain are starting to take the initiative having realised, albeit somewhat late in the day, that a digital community is a vibrant, investable one which encourages inward investment in housing and services. If we're honest, Broadband is now a utility or at least it will be shortly. Far from accepting peace-meal Broadband solutions based upon long copper lines or poorly performing satellite solutions, communities and RDA's are now pushing for and achieving a step change in Internet connectivity through the use of fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) and more interestingly fibre to the home (FTTH). These technologies can deliver 100Mbps to each premises virtually regardless of the distance from the local exchange.
So why isn't this technology available everywhere? Well it is if you live in Korea or Japan but in the UK BT have only just started trials and these trials are currently limited to urban and suburban areas. Whilst it is easy to berate BT for all things that are wrong with Broadband in the UK it is worth remembering that most of the connections in the UK are still based upon 40 year old copper/aluminium lines many of which are overhead and the cost of replacing even the underground copper cabling runs into billions of pounds, far beyond the commercial imperatives of the one time monopoly provider. And it is based on these commercial realities that community and RDA investment is now happening. Yes there are regulatory hurdles to overcome, permissions from BT required to install exchange equipment and a plethora of funding paperwork to complete but it is worthwhile as evidenced by Rutland Telecom and Nynet whose new found high speed connectivity is changing lives, literally.

So is it time to galvanise your local community into action? Yes and do it now. There is funding available to get these projects implemented and in the East Midlands, EMDA have prioritised some £4M of funding to address the rural digital deprivation issues.

Get in touch with us here at the Rockfield Partnership with your community requirements for Broadband and we'll help you put a cogent case together for consideration by EMDA and indeed other RDA's


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