back to article UK gov superfast broadband summit decides... erm... nothing

The Whitehall summit on next generation broadband on Monday concluded with government, regulators and industry firmly agreeing that they definitely need to start thinking around what to do about the UK's creaking internet infrastructure at some unspecified point in the future (perhaps). The Department for Business, Enterprise …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds a bit like IPv6...

    We all know what everyone wants, yet nobody knows exactly how to get things moving. Everyone is happy with what they've got at the moment so we'll just meet up again in a few months time to say the same things again.

    Actions speak louder than words. Nobody expects the entire country to get fibre to the home, but we need to get started somewhere.

  2. JasonW

    What's the point of superfast broadband

    ... when it's throttled to hell and/or volume restricted?

  3. Wolfman

    Own Goal

    I'd be careful of holding Virgin Media up as a paragon of ISPs. Upping the headline speeds to 50mbit is one thing, delivering consistent data rates is another. I'm on Virgin's 2mbit service and I still get wide variations in speed from day to day. From anecdotal evidence, 10Mb is supposed to be even worse.

  4. Kevin Pollock

    Missing the point

    While it's delightful to hear that Virgin might offer 50Meg services to a selected few, we need to remember that the local connection speed isn't the whole picture.

    Most DSL broadband users in the UK are subjected to quite a high contention ratios on the backhaul link between the local exchange and the BT wholesale network. These contention ratios are claimed not to exceed 50:1 for residential services, but it's virtually impossible for an ordinary user to measure it.

    As we frequently hear - the broadband "experience" frequently fails to deliver anything like the advertised 16Meg, 8Meg or even 2Meg service claimed by the ISP.

    The bottleneck that causes the performance problems can be in many places along the end to end path, but the most likely point of contention right now is that "second mile", or backhaul link.

    Virgin has their own backhaul that's separate from BT, but both NTL and Telewest have had a freeze of network capacity upgrades while the network consolidation has been under way since the merger. Virgin is also deep in debt, and so it's not clear how they'd fund a major network upgrade at this time.

    DSL ISPs are at the mercy of BT Wholesale, who have not yet delivered the "21st Century Network" they promised. It's not late yet (2010 was originally mentioned), but it's needed sooner than BT thought.

    And even where an exchange is unbundled, and the ISP has their own DSLAM, they still need to connect that DSLAM back into the rest of the network - and that is usually done over BT Wholesale links.

    So if there's one company that needs to get its finger out and start delivering more capacity it's good old BT.

    And by the way - what's the point of access speeds measured in tens of megabits when the "Fair Use Agreements" will (in many cases) result in throttling after you've downloaded only a couple of GBytes?

  5. Steve Evans
    Thumb Down

    Virgin media trial...

    All very nice for those that got cable.

    Unfortunately the cable companies NTL, Telewest gave up investing in connecting new towns many many years ago when they ran out of money. Which is partly why they are now owned by Virgin.

    I remember many moons ago watching excitedly as the road works bringing the fibre got closer and closer to my town. Then I watched the local papers as people started worrying about tree roots being damaged etc... And then everything stopped.

    It took years before ADSL finally managed to handle my nice aluminium local loop, and even now it can only just about manage 2Mb down 256Kb up, assuming you can put up with the connection resetting 20 times a day.

    The only way we're going to get a respectable network is if someone puts in some serious investment and upgrades all the end links to homes.

    FYI I've just come back from a trip to Poland, I stayed with a friend who has a 2Mb synchronous cable to his house... For far less than I pay for my wobbly 2Meg ADSL. Can we even get synchronous cable any more? The last home cable install I used had 2Mb down and 128Kb up.

    Just out of interest, I wonder how much cable you could install with the money they spent on that meeting?

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Contentious issue

    Who gives a flying fuck how fast the connection to the home is if they don't have the back haul infrastructure to keep up. Which Virgin Media clearly don't, because otherwise they wouldn't need to cap the bandwidth usage so ridiculously low. I'd rather see efforts to seriously lower contention so people can use the internet at peak times.

    Switching from Plus Net to Be made me realise that putting up with a 98% reduction in speed at peak times with through the roof pings was not just something that you had to live with.

    Now I can actually play bandwidth intensive multiplayer games in the evening when I get home from work!

    Now I can actually use my Napster subscription to listen to music!

    Now I can download large files without having to retry many times due to connection drops!

    Now I can download ~200MB episodes of TV shows in 1 minute flat, at peak time!

    Now I don't get told that every problem I have is my fault, even when it's not!

    Although I admit that last point is probably partly due to my never having had a single problem since I switched to Be, not even a connection drop, which I used to get 5-6 times a night with Plus Net.

    And no, it wasn't my phone line, modem equipment or computer that was the problem when I was with Plus Net, since all function perfectly with Be.

    What I would like to see is all ISP's be forced to publish average peak time contended speed, and only be allowed to say the line speed in the footnotes.

    So for instance a 50Mbps connection with an average of 70:1 bandwidth contention during peak hours could only be advertised as a "~700Kbps peak time download average", whereas a 24Mbps connection with a stated non-contention policy (like Be, see FAQ) would be advertised as 24Mbps peak time download average". And you should be able to check the historic average contention data for your local exchange before you sign up.

    While I'm here, I'll mention another gripe.... shaping particular applications should be banned since as it is pretty much fraud. The most that should be allowed is to equally share the bandwidth so everyone gets the same shitty amount, but never less than the peak time average speed they saw in the advert (that is, if the contended peak time speed did become the only thing you could legally put in adverts). If some people want to use that amount for streaming video or gaming, fine. Others P2P, fine again. But don't use shaping tricks to try and hide the fact you haven't got fuck all in the way of back haul, fix the cause don't defraud.

    Yeah, I sound like a walking advert for Be, but screw it, they just dropped the price for the exact same great service so it's the least I can do for them.

    And I'm staying a coward because I heard that Plus Net have ties to the mafia, and they kill innocent puppies and put the heads in your bed if they don't like what you say about them....

  7. Anigel

    Virgin media speeds

    Well I hear constant moaning about Virgin media speeds, however I am on 20Mbs and understanding the internet means that I dont expect to get 20MBs but rather upto a maximum of 20Mbps (note the difference in B and b) and depending what server I am downloading from and what time of day it is I will normally get 20Mbs until i hit Virgin ontherediculous's traffic shaping aka limiting scheme which drops me back down to 5Mbps as I dared download something at my full speed.

    Whilst in some areas Virgin's speeds may suffer, it is not the case for everyone and in fact most of the time I hear about people having speed issues they are trying to visit streaming content from over subscribed stateside servers at the same time as the whole of the US is awake and doing the same or something similar.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    What has this to do with government?

    No really what has this to do with government?

    They had little to do with the infrastructure we use today and by the way they handle IT should have even less to do with it's evolution to the next level.

    Timms is just profile building as always, the guy is an embarrassment to the people of Newham who keep returning him to parliament.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At what cost?

    All the talk of fast internet but no-one has considered to cost comparison.

    It's way more expensive in the UK than most places, and there is no competition, I'm on NTL, can I swap? No. if I want my BT line back I have to subscribe to BT for a year, and then they have no idea what they can give me speed wise until they put the line in. I hadly want to return to BT to find they can only give me 512KB..

    Japan averages speeds of 26mbps (or 26meg as the telco companies would call it) for around £10 a month. Hardly makes my "unlimited" 2mbps NTL line look really pricey at £15 a month.

  10. Lloyd


    This is the government of the Uk we're talking about here isn't it?

    You expect them to be efficient based on previous performance?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The problem with Japan...

    ... is that it's not really a valid comparisson - When the population density is incredibly high, it's incredibly easy to give high headline speeds, as you're just building a large LAN (With lots of contention beyond the building/block/area in order of worsening contention) - Also Japan doesn't need as much international connectivity, as Japanese language content is most likely to be found, hosted in Japan.

  12. David Neil

    Virgin speeds - 50Mb trial

    It will e interesting to see just how they will roll this out.

    Currently the trial involves replacement cable modems and highly managed links - considering that when they brought in 20Mb a lot of people had to argue for a modem upgrade as the ones they had were a bit 'wobbly' under the new speeds it's hard to see where they will get the money from.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    @Contentious issue

    "but never less than the peak time average speed"

    erm... then its not the average.

    and deciding on an average could be trciky in itself.

    whats the sample size?

    have a worse link than the "average" home?

    (remember number of people that live in built up areas)

    also, for arguments sake, should you get lower than the "expected speed" (however its decided upon) how do you prove that it is a problem with the isp, and not a peer (to the isp) or the server your conecting to?

    however, i do agree with your sentiments

  14. John Murgatroyd

    Why ?

    I can really see bt bothering to upgrade ad-infinitum, just to be told that they have to let everyone else use the system at cost.

    As for needing to install more capacity....there are (at last count) 4 separate cable runs going through this village....none from BT...and none TO this village. Let them eat cake !

  15. Fred

    no wait!!!!

    Ftth* is a great idea!... but, then id be out of a job! I could then get me coat; & P45 and get in the dole Q - Whooooopy!

    *Ftth, not a typo of filth btw...

  16. Anonymous Coward

    You think you have problems?

    Try living in Hull -

    We are the unwilling hosts to Kingston Communications, the nations final independently owned telecomms network. KC is our only Internet Service Provider and provides absolutely pathetic speeds at a silly price. If you don't believe me, check out places like for the speedtest results....

    I'd love the chance of a BT line.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Where the F are BT in all this ??.

    What amazes me is that the Post Office ,i.e. now called BT are not taking an active lead in all this and showing the way. BT now seem to be followers rather than leaders. Do I want to sign up with Virgin media, even at 50mb , NO so long as they are connected with NtHell.

  18. D.A.


    In that well-known technological Colossus known as Romania, I'm getting 10Mb down/1Mb up cable for the huge sum of 9 quid per month.

    Although it would be nice if I didn't have water running down my walls at the same time.

  19. Nobody

    @ AC

    >> Nobody expects the entire country to get fibre to the home...

    Too right I do!

  20. Anonymous Coward

    One Word


  21. adrian

    BT Costs

    BT have just rolled out DSL, I don't think they are in a hurry to upgrade until they have hit their return figures.

  22. GrahamT

    Re: Where are BT in all this?

    I was at a conference years ago (Networks '95 I think) where it was announced that BT were the first country in the world to connect all its trunk exchanges by fibre. Later, they also planned to use fibre for the then newly proposed "cable television" network, but Thatcher/Ofcom said that BT couldn't bid for the cable network, and anyway, it was to be based on copper coax to keep the cost of set-top boxes down (I think that's the reason - my memory isn't what it was)

    I see Ofcom as the problem, not BT; whenever BT want to push ahead, Ofcom accuses them of abusing their position as market leader and makes them wait until everyone else catches up.

    The only reason I defend BT is that I have had their ADSL since the early 512 kbps days to "8" mbps (actually 6.5 - 7 mbps) now and have been very happy with it.

    Shame the help desk stinks. I used it once after a line outage and repair had caused my ADSL speed to drop down to dial-up speeds afterwards. They suggested I reboot all my computers...

  23. Anonymous Coward

    @@Contentious issue

    erm... then its not the average."

    No it's not the average at all, that's the idea. It's really a worst case scenario if every single person sharing at their maximum contention ratio were to download large files simultaneously or something.

    After all the misleading advertising by ISP's it's only fair to completely turn things around for a while. Forcing them to advertise the worst case speeds and call them average would be consumers revenge for all the packages with 15GB per month limits sold as "unlimited".

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Government involvement

    Will be to cut taxes on companies offering Internet services* and announce that thanks to their enlightened policies Britain has 'the most Internet friendly regulatory regime in Europe / on Earth / in the Universe'. The companies will bank the tax cut and continue to allow their network to rot.

    * Although if Virgin gets a further tax cut, Beardie might end up receiving money from the government**.

    ** On top of the money we pay his offshore company to run the railways and will soon be paying him to take over a worthless bank.

  25. TeeCee Gold badge

    Behind closed doors.

    We may not know exactly what was said, but from the public quotes I'll bet they had a bloody good round of "buzzword bingo" in there.

  26. Anonymous Coward


    Virgin's 50MB is a bit of a joke really. Current projections are a pathetic 1.5MB upload speed, which if you do the maths you will realise is not actually enough to achieve 50MB down in any kind of realistic situation.

    At least the minister is talking about BB being more symmetrical. It seems like he has at least realised that symmetrical connections capable of supporting apps like the Slingbox, P2P etc are the way forward. Fibre is the only solution to this so rather than wasting time with BT and the like he might as well just get on with laying it and leasing it out to ISPs. BB could become a basic service, like water or electricity, but publicly owned. It's not like the money isn't available now ID cards look to be dead.

  27. Slaine

    4 play - with words

    Stephen Timms is an anagram of "Penis Stem (thp)" whilst Ed Richards can quickly be rotated into "Dick 'Ed"....

    Well, all we need now are the Balls, oh yes... it's a government incentive.

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