back to article SHEEP NEED TWITTER, insist my noble Lords

A House of Lords committee this week declared that British taxpayers must foot the bill for an internet that nobody wants - unless perhaps they have a second home in the country. You may have caught the highlights of this report yesterday, and some observations are accurate: Britain's broadband is slower than its rivals. But …


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  1. Anonymous Coward


    The internet is just as vital to people in the country as it is in the city. What's your problem?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bollocks

      a) is it vital, as in as essential as air and water and electricity

      Or is it only vital because other services such as post offices and mobile libraries have been cut?

      b) does it bring the benefit the lords claim to the economy

      the report implies that our be-furred second chamber is either widely optimistic, or under stating the benefit. (Or they really don't know, and just picked the avergae figure)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bollocks

      That people in the city pay for their own broadband and now are being asked to pay for somebody else's.

      Some people seem to think the government should be doing everything under the sun, what will you want next?

      A special department to wipe your arse for you?

      1. Thorne

        Re: Bollocks

        People in the country pay for broadband too but why should we pay ten times as much for one tenth the speed as a city person? (even assuming we can even get that)

        Broadband is infrastructure as much as roads, electricity or telephones and it's the government's job to make sure the infrastructure is there, not just in the profitable locations.

        The system costs X dollars to build across the country and there is Y people so the cost X / Y

        I could apply your argument to say country areas don't deserve electricity, phones or hospitals as well. It's a crap argument.

        1. DaiKiwi

          Re: Bollocks

          That is precisely the conservative point of view.

          Rural areas don't deserve the additional infrastructure because it isn't worthwhile.

          Unless some duke/earl/internet billionaire is in a given area, in which case exceptions will be found.

          1. Thorne

            Re: Bollocks

            I could apply the same argument to mobile towers in country areas but it's the city dwellers who bitch about that cause they can't twitter about the crap roads on their iPhones while on their weekend holidays.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bollocks

        > That people in the city pay for their own broadband and now are being asked to pay for somebody else's.

        I live in the country. Over the years I've paid bucketloads of money to BT. Seems to me that BT has spent the bulk of that money in the cities (because it can make the best return there). Who's been subsidising who?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Bollocks

          >I live in the country. Over the years I've paid bucketloads of money to BT.

          Yes, the service is expensive to provide to rural areas.

          I suppose it hasn't occurred to you that your regular phone service is also subsidised?

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Racing to where the ball is now?

    Surely this is a foreward-looking proposal, based on where the world is headed and not what people happen to like now? Mobile internet usage is ballooning, the number of net-connected devices is exploding, TV watching is.. um..

    So yeah, free up the airwaves for the internet. People managed to move from analogue to digital, I'm sure they'll manage to go from aerial to DSL. It's not like it's going to happen next year, so the tech should be ready for it by then, and video will probably be considered a low-bandwidth thing too.

    Besides, a lot of people (especially in the high-tech sectors) can work from home now. I can see that increasing. And a lot of them choose to do so from the country. All you need is a fast internet link (although a stable electricity supply is probably higher up the list).

    Written from my armchair looking out at open fields full of cows :) (And I have a respectable link here already at >6mbit, so no accusing me of pushing to get this rushed through for my own benefit. That stable electric supply though, that I definitely want!)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Racing to where the ball is now?

      Yep, I can imagine all the old people who don't even know what the f*ck DSL is just lining up to be reamed by the likes of BT just so they can watch via a cable what they used to be able to just tune in to. TV is well suited to the medium currently used to broadcast it - having to pay a license fee is punishment enough and you believe we should then have to pay for fast broadband on top?

      Add on to that the mobile providers don't deserve any more of the spectrum until they bother covering the country properly with what they have. I was recently unfortunate enough to travel to Portsmouth city centre. No 3G reception in the middle of the place and about 2 bars of 2G, f*cking disgraceful in 2012. Even when you can get a 3G connection the backhaul is so pathetic it's like downloading a webpage on dialup.

      As for tech workers being able to work from home, I'd love to however the World seem full of luddites in middle and upper management that consider that if you aren't in the office you must be sat around scratching your nuts watching TV. You must have stumbled onto the ones with brains. Lucky you.

  3. Alan Potter 1


    I know that lord-bashing creates a juicy headline, but I think the analysis here is well off the mark.

    There are lots of poor people who live in rural areas. Improved access to the Net will provide more scope for enterprise - heck, even if they spend their time selling stuff on eBay - and with it increased prosperity for rural areas.

    Our economy will surely work best if all of our land is utilised to its maximum potential. Leaving vast tracts of that land as areas that cannot properly participate in the 21st century is a recipe for disaster. If we want people to live in that land, we need to ensure that they have - amongst other things - good Net access.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Disagree@ Alan Potter 1

      "There are lots of poor people who live in rural areas. Improved access to the Net will provide more scope for enterprise - heck, even if they spend their time selling stuff on eBay - and with it increased prosperity for rural areas."

      So the rural poor are sitting on mountains of valuable posessions that they could only shift with access to Ebay? What are you on?

      Spending billions connecting sparsely populated rural areas won't magic up yet more billions from previously stifled entrepreneurs (of the stay at home, not very enterprising type). What it will do is crowd out more sensible uses of the cash, the best of which include may well be not spending it at all.

      As you're clearly a believer in the magic of infrastructure, perhaps you should look at how the Channel Tunnel was justified on fictious benefits and over-optimistic traffic forecasts, resulting in about £5bn being written off. Not learning from this, the bunglers of government underwrote the UK HS1 link, result, another £5bn of debt hung round the UK taxpayers neck. And now the same criminals are hoping to saddle us with many more billions of debt for the ill-begotten HS2.

      Moving information faster is just like moving people faster - just because you can do it doesn't mean it makes financial sense to do so.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Disagree @Ledswinger

        Dear city dwellers, I offer a deal. If I can get decent broadband - and I shan't be greedy, 2 meg would do - nor am I asking for this for free, just the opportunity to be able to buy it - then I'll stop clogging up your roads commuting into the office. Think of investment into rural broadband as investment into city traffic reduction instead.

        1. Richard Gadsden

          Re: Disagree @Ledswinger

          You could buy it right now. Call up BT OpenReach and ask them for a quote for installing the backhaul and you can run your own DSLAM.

          Of course, the problem is that it would cost more than your car.

  4. Complicated Disaster

    But if the mobile companies pay for it in exchange for a chunck of the terrestrial TV bandwidth then £28bn becomes small change.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      @Complicated Disaster

      "But if the mobile companies pay for it in exchange for a chunck of the terrestrial TV bandwidth then £28bn becomes small change"

      And, where, pray tell, do they get their money from?

      1. Rampant Spaniel

        Re: @Complicated Disaster

        Not quite a fail. The money would come from mobile users. i.e. those benefiting from the increased spectrum. So not from people who stand to gain nothing, but from people who are directly benefitting.

        If you think about it, its a pretty logic train of thought. Move TV to IP, to do this you need very near universal ftth and significant investment in the backbone. The benefit of ending broadcast tv is a large chunk of attractive and useful spectrum. The people who want / need this are the folks who really should be paying for it.

        As for how it will change bills, I pay less these days for mobile \ cell phone bills then I ever did in the past and I get more. 3g (and the associated spectrum sale) didn't kill my bank account.

        This is probably one of least out of touch ideas the gin soaked coma patients have managed to come up with.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @Rampant Spaniel

          "The money would come from mobile users"

          In return for what? As a ball park figure, we appear to be talking about around £30bn, and that's around £1,000 a household for the entire UK, or a smaller number of households paying a lot more. Who needs the TV spectrum, and for what? On the one hand you are mooting that mobile has got cheaper (which in like for like terms I accept), and yet you say that some proportion of the population will pony up an extra £30bn.

          "The people who want / need this are the folks who really should be paying for it."

          We agree! Huzzah! But you to judge by the conversation in this and other related threads, the rural dwellers most certainly don't want to pay for their broadband at cost. So if they won't, why will mobile users be any different?

          1. Rampant Spaniel

            Re: @Rampant Spaniel

            On the first point, people who want more and faster mobile data.

            I like the way you reduced it to a solid figure, I wish I was at a desktop to pull up some more solid figures but I would suggest the maths would run like this.

            1000 over 5 years. Say on average each house hold has TV, 1 broadband connection and one contract cellphone. The TV network doesn't need to maintain a physical broadcast network so theres a saving. Part of the cost would be covered in your physical internet connection and part in your mobile bill.

            So 16-17 per month per household. However, part of that they would have already paid for anyway. Either to their telco for vdsl upgrades then vdls 2 then vdsl 3, or to their mobile telco for them to roll out lte etc etc.

            I'm not saying the idea is perfect, just that it does seem to make a degree of sense. Considerably more sense than normal. TV gets the ability to scale significantly to 4k or 8k, perhaps even the ability to pay extra for less compressed footage (great for sports). Everyone who wants it gets faster fixed and mobile broadband and the physical infrastruture makes a jump it should have 20 years ago.

            I don't see this strictly as fibre for sheep, but rather a larger picture that leaves quite a few people with several better services.Yes there is a cost, but how much of it would they have paid out anyway for inferior services in that time?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @Rampant Spaniel

              I'd agree people want more and more data, and faster. But there's a couple of fundamental problems.

              First is that economic demand is a desire for something backed by an ability and a willingness to pay. At the moment no company believes that there's a queue of people waving a total of £30 bn in cash. And having extensive experience in infrastructure programme management, I'm inclined to agree with them.

              Second is that many of the "give us a gigabit" demands for broadband seem to assume near limitless demand for speed and content. We've seen similar presumptions of limitless demands in the transport sector - look at the tumbleweed strewn Humber Bridge, the empty M50, the under utilisation of the Channel Tunnel link, the same nonsense being used to justify airport expansions. There's certainly a baseline of rising demand in many of these situations, but it is rather foolhardy to extrapolate previous fast growth and restricted capacity forward, as the transport examples show. OFCOM and the Lords are apparently fervent believers in the idea that broadcast TV will be dead in due course, and it will become TV over IP, but that's a very big gamble, with some potentially troublesome outcomes as casual audiences dry up, and low and mid level popularity content disappears. If VOD/Youtube is the future of TV, then it is going to be a very grim future. I'd accept the idea that VOD sits alongside scheduled broadcast, but it looks to me as though those in charge are quite happy to sweep aside scheduled broadcasting altogether.

              Regarding the £1,000 per household, that's the capital cost. In practical terms that's probably going to involve a lot of borrowing, so factor in some interest, then you need to factor in a commercial return on the investment, and we're probably talking about £25 per month. And why do I want to pay this? I have 100Mbit capable cable (and even then only using and paying for 10Mbit), which I'm happily paying for without any subsidy. Why would I want to pay an extra £25 a month for ever, in order for smock-wearers to have super fast access to agricultural dating sites?

              Taking some of your examples, I can't abide sport. But those who want it can currently subscribe to Sky. Why make everybody pay for something that's currently fairly widely available for those who wish to buy it? As for 8k TV, we're then talking about replacing every set top box, PVR and TV in the land, when there's no content for it. I know you're alluding to the longer term, but look at Blu ray. That hasn't been a stunning success, with most people more than happy with a conventional HDTV and DVD with upscaling. In music, the move has been from quality to convenience, with hi-fi now a real niche interest, and the masses delighted with low bit rate MP3s, even where they do have broadband that could cope with uncompressed content.

              So again, "just because we can" isn't a good argument for spending this sort of money, nor for effectively funding it from tax. I'm quite happy with modest government support to identify better ways of providing better rural broadband at realistic cost, but I'm not happy with a vast investment in optimistic "build and they will come" infrastructure that will never pay off. Is that really unreasonable?

              1. Rampant Spaniel

                Re: @Rampant Spaniel

                Thanks again for a good reasoned reply. You are right 30bn is beyond most companies bar perhaps the likes of Vodafone or maybe a petrochem or mining company. I think thats where the government leadership comes from. I believe Australia is actually doing something similar.

                I agree that often you shouldnLt do something just because you can. Sometimes you should, going to the moon, concorde, the iss are fine examples of hideously expensive things that were fine examples of what mankind can do. Sadly our legacy seems likely to be going to Asda in your pj's. However, a nationwide fibre network isn't something that should be built on anything other than a solid financial footing. On this we agree it would seem!

                Is there a financial justification without resorting to % gdp voodoo. Perhaps.

                I mentioned sport because it was the first thing to come to mind as an example of how the current digital tv offerings (freeview, freesat, sky and virgin) all suffer from piss poor quality due to overcompression. Going to sky won't help, we have reached a point where we want to send more information then we can without compromising quality. To improve quality we need more capacity to the viewer.

                You mention replacing stb's etc. This is pretty much my point. Cable companies replace stb's and cable modems as new technology comes along. Docsis 3 resulted in a lot of new modems but this is offset by new adopters paying more for a faster service using less frequency. Freeview boxes will all need to be replaced at some point in the next decade or they won't be able to support new codecs. Sky brings out new boxes and at some point will likely need to switch the compression codec out to support things like 4/8k. We are going to spend money over and over again doing just enough rather than doing a decent job in the first place.

                This isn't a we need it today thing. This is a we will be spending a fortune anyway on various different plans such as ftth, fttc, vdsl, lte a etc, why no just give 95% of the population ftth then give the rest extremely fast wireless by shifting tv to iptv. 30bn sounds a lot, but over the next 10 years how much will bt / sky / virgin / mobile phone companies spend combined on infrastructure? Whilst the cost may be 25 a month, the effect on your bills would be lower.

                You are right it would be borrowed money and the underlying cost would be higher, but a significant part of that sat 25 a month you would have paid anyway. So is there a point at which it does make sense?

                IIRC we nearly had ftth. Murdoch said he would deliver 100%ftth if he alone could use it for TV rather than having to allow others access. Maggs refused. The will has been there in the past, it would be a huge gamble for any company, but if companies are guaranteed a fair chance at getting their money back at least some will consider it. The enormity of the amount in the current market and the governments past history with BT are things standing in the way, hence perhaps the suggestion of the government leading it.

                I think it is worthwhile to look into it. If the government can finance it, on the strict understanding it has to be paid back with interest and not just some promise that 'it will make everything better', it may be worth a shot.

                At its most basic, if the free market value of the spectrum exceeds the cost of the transition (ftth rollout + new stb's), it's worth serious consideration. Hopefully the lords would start discussing how much that spectrum is worth to to cellcos, that would probably be the first step in the process. Given they came up with 22bn before (albeit they suffered pain afterwards but partially because they thought 3g would sell videocalls when in the end they found out it sold data), it's not beyond the realms of possibility they could find 30bn. If not then hopefully the idea is dead in the water.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: @Rampant Spaniel

                  "Whilst the cost may be 25 a month, the effect on your bills would be lower."

                  I think there's the rub - that's an extra twenty five quid, not instead of. So my VM connection is already being funded by me, and can support any forseeable needs of me and my neighbours for many years yet. So FTTH doesn't give me any benefit. In the case of our rural cousins, FTTH might replace their damp string, but there is still the stranded costs of the damp string network, which will need to be recovered somehow. Maybe that's in the £30bn - I haven't looked to find out.

          2. Rampant Spaniel


            Sorry, I wrote out a reply but it seems not to have been published.

            I like the idea of breaking it down to the cost. It won't be quite that simple and clearcut as there will be savings in not running a broadcast network with transmitters for TV and no doubt investment in fibre would replace investment in other technologies like say vdsl, then vdsl 2, then vdsl max, then vdsl max 3 ad nauseum, all putting off the need to actually just get on with it and put in fibre. A portion of what everyone pays for mobile and fixed internet already goes (directly or indirectly via openreach) to infrastructure costs, present and past.

            Will mobile users pay for the spectrum (which in turn pays for broadcast tv to move to multicast IP by providing fibre to all the population). It wouldn't solely be mobile users, it would be mobile and fixed line users as the whole scheme would be providing the infrastructure for fixed line internet as well as spectrum for mobile internet.

            So 1000 per household over sa 5 years.

            There are approximately 18m broadband connections in the uk, so about 2/3rds of households based on your 30m hosueholds figure. Mobile broadband is lower at about 13% of adults but climbing quickly. There are about 90m mobile phones in use, with about hald on contracts. So on a per hosuehold basis you are looking at about .66 of a fixed line connection and 1.47 contract mobiles per household. So 1000 (minus broadcast network savings) over 5 years across roughly 2 bills per household. That means that about 9 pounds a month per bill.

            It doesn't entirely stop there though, its unlikely that neither cell phone providers or fixed line providers would spend nothing on their infrastructure over those 5 years so part of that cost would be mitigated by that. It's not likely that there would be an increase of 9 pounds a month on both your mobile and fixed line internet bills, but they probably would see a mild increase.

            I think theres also a possibility to allow for 'premium' quality TV, so channels or programs requiring additional quality could have a premium stream at a higher bitrate. F1 races come to mind, that kind of situation where you have very fast action that gets screwed by compression. TV can also scale to 4k and 8k without trauma.

            I initially dismissed the idea, the Lords aren't known for common sense, but when you look at the underlying logic it's fairly solid. Mobile companies want more spectrum to cope with ever increasing demand for mobile data. What uses spectrum, in the right frequency range, that could be delivered by a fixed line (yes folks in caravans would need to use their mobile phones to watch tv), Tv stands out as a great possibility. Maybe it's a case of 1 million drunk comatose monkeys at 1 million typewriters, but it would seem they managed to come up with something here. To get that spectrum we need to fibre the entire country, not just cities. The really remote places, it might make more sense to provide fast cover via something like LTE advanced, they would likely not have much contention on the cells anyway and would quite likely see 1-200mbps speeds. I'm not sure on the cost of deploying lte a vs fibre in remote rural areas, perhaps someone else has some figures?

            The cost is significant when you look at it as one large number, but the 3g auction in the uk raised 22.5 billion and other than some amusingly priced and underused video calling pricing things largely didn't go down the shitter pricewise. That was 12 years ago, so the 30bn is likely to be amortized over a decade rather than 5 years which would reduce the pricing further. Put simply, my guess is people who use mobile data and broadband might see each bill rise by say 5 a month, but only those wanting faster services.

  5. Rampant Spaniel

    I'm not sure their argument is solely that rural broadband is worth it to give every last farmhouse 50mbps. I think the argument is twofold,

    1- in the future the internet, and fast access to it, will become more important. Not life and death, but increasing useful shall we say. Having lived 'in the fields' where dual isdn was about as fast as it got for a long time (and 2mbps is about it there these days), theres no way to realistically afford faster internet.

    So why should folks in the smoke pay for woolybacks to have superfast connections. This leads to point 2.

    It allows broadcast tv for the whole country to be sent via IP (which supports multicast right?) freeing up a large amount of useful spectrum across the entire country which benefits everyone. As alluded to above, the sale of this spectrum may even cover the cost of the rollout to rural areas.

    It isn't entirely a one sided deal.

    Now should the public purse pay for it anyway? Perhaps, personally I feel that after numerous variants of adsl have been released over the years, we should have just bit the bullet years ago and rolled out fiber in the first place. The expense would have been considerable, but how does it compare to upgrading adsl every few years in a vain attempt to stave off installing fiber anyway. FTTH is coming at some point. The public purse should pay for it only if it can recup it in real revenue not smoke and mirrors % growth in gdp calculations. Frankly, it probably can pay for itself over enough time. Lets drop the half arsed efforts and just get it done, then flog the spectrum so everyone gets the benefits.

  6. Refugee from Windows

    Since the demise of satellite broadband, some of these areas lost out on a connection completely. Others that had initially had their own provision lost it when a certain large telecom company pulled the rug out from under them by bringing in ADSL to villages. However I have friends 14km of wet string from the exchange and their chance of getting broadband is basically nil - the population/subscriber density is too low for it to be economic.

    Saying that, I'm 2km from an exchange and can't get broadband at all, nay they tried to get POTS working for 3 months and finally gave me my line rental back. Oh the delights of living in a "notspot"!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > However I have friends 14km of wet string from the exchange...

      So put a number on it, how much would you personally pay to give them fibre at no benefit to yourself?

      Or does it cease to matter when it's "government" money?

      1. Rampant Spaniel

        Only it doesn't have to be government money. I am all for leaning out gov't spending, we waste fortunes on non essential spending. However, this stands the chance of being self funding so it worth serious consideration. This isn't lets give sheep broadband, this is we need more mobile spectrum in the right frequency range, we can bump tv to IPTV BUT to do so we need to ensure everyone has fast enough internet, which means even rural properties (whilst they might not have broadband, most will have TV) not just city slickers.

        Rather than just piss about with minor fibre rollouts and large scale frequent upgrades to new adsl and vdsl technologies, how about we seriously consider a country wide rollout of fibre. BT et al already spend a fortune on their networks, as do mobile providers, why not get together and see if for once we can't actually do something that makes sense.

        The title of this 'article' might seem witty, but unfortunately it creates a false impression of what is trying to be achieved.

  7. The BigYin
    Thumb Down

    Ah, I see.

    So the city dwellers (and lord, no less) have decided that the country bumpkins are incapable of deciding for themselves what they want and must be told. And we all have to pay for it. How nice. But, hark, what is this I see before me? b4rn

    Maybe these peers are more concerned about local initiative hitting their share investments; are worried that the great unwashed may realised they can do things for themselves? Or could it be that the high-and-mighty just can't stream their grumble flicks fast enough when relaxing at their second mansion?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    People need internet. It's infrastructure and to have a successful country you need it to be available everywhere.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      People need water, electricity sewerage and gas and none of those are supplied universally.

      1. Graham Marsden


        If you live in the country you can get water from a borehole, electricity from generators, dump your sewerage in a cess pit and get gas delivered by tanker.

        How do you suggest that those living in the country get their broadband delivered?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @ZanzibarRastapopulous

          >How do you suggest that those living in the country get their broadband delivered?

          Lay your own cable or if it's that important then move.

          People have been moving from rural areas for centuries after they've ceased to be viable.

          St Kilda was evacuated because basic living supplies and medical care were impossible to provide. No doubt if one of them had hung on you lot would want to be laying fibre out there (at my expense rather than your own of course).

          A lot of people on here are very free with other people's money.

        2. Thorne

          Re: @ZanzibarRastapopulous

          SD cards strapped to pigeons

          Actually they did that test here of pigeon vrs country internet and the pigeon was faster.

      2. John Arthur
        Thumb Down


        Water, electricity, sewerage and gas are not universal but there are alternatives. I have a borehole and pump for water, mains electricity, my own septic tank for sewage and no gas. So I use alternatives to mains for three items, water, sewage and oil for heating and hot water instead of gas. I do have the luxury of mains electricity. Electricity is all but universal these days though we did not have it in my youth but had a small hydro plant. I could, expensively, have an alternative for electricity too using a diesel generator. Now tell me how I could provide my own broadband connexion to the backbone without outside help from one of the big players?

  9. LinkOfHyrule

    a fridge that accesses

    Hell no. That is a pretty desperate image - a mother and father so addicted to online gambling that they are placing bets while making little johnny his eggy bread for din dins, in the kitchen, on their Beko fridge, brought from the Freeman's catalogue on tick no doubt - (does Freeman's even still exist anyone know?) damn what a horrid thought!

    Thank you for that depressing image! Words are powerful you know, theatre of the mind and all that! And those few words of yours produced in my mind a depressing made for TV kitchen sink drama set in Stoke-on-Trent during a Big Society+Facebook induced nuclear apocalypse directed by Ken Loach!

  10. auburnman

    The internet is vital.

    The fact is internet access is almost a de facto essential utility nowadays. The sheer - well - utility of it leaves those with no or substandard access at a significant disadvantage. If you agree it should be a utility alongside water and power, then it is practically a right of the people and efforts must be made to provide a decent service across the whole of the UK regardless of commercial viability. If you don't agree it's a utility then I challenge you to live without it for a month. I would hazard a guess that some of El Reg's contributors would struggle to maintain a job writing for a website for example.

    Where the report does wander into nutter territory is where they suggest killing of TV though.

    1. GettinSadda

      Re: The internet is vital.

      Yup - we have a child in primary school and living in rural Scotland the standard message in the winter is "If it snows, check the council's website for a list of school closures before 8:30am, then if your school is closed check the 'Glow' network (website for pupils and teachers) for details of work to be done at home and handed in when the school reopens".

      It is already getting to the point where life without the internet is significantly more difficult than with it - and in five or ten years it is likely to be even more vital. Just because some city-dwellers think that all properties in the countryside are either hovels for the terminally poor, or second homes for toffs doesn't mean it's true.

      If someone suggested that maybe 2% of the population would have to live with no prospect of getting electricity, or a normal phone line, that would be thought ridiculous; in a few years time suggesting that some people will have to live without the internet is going to be as bad.

      Also, look at your average group of 14-/15-year-olds today; how many of them don't ever use the internet (even if just for Facebook or Twitter)? In ten years time they will be 24 or 25 and probably married with kids. Do you think they will suddenly turn their backs on the internet? If they are all likely to need it in ten years time we don't have much time to start rolling out better coverage when you consider how long it is likely to take to achieve.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The internet is vital.

        I'm sorry, but if you choose to live out in the countryside then you take what comes with country life. If I choose to live in a city for the amenities it affords me and the other conditions that I have to put up with such as pollution and overcrowding then so be it. But please don't come to me or any other such taxpayer asking to have an economically unviable internet connection subsidised by the rest of us else perhaps we should ask you to upgrade our shitty, tiny little gardens in a quid pro quo. After all, a space for the children to safely play in is important is it not?

        Yes, I have made this post deliberately inflammatory but sometimes the whining from the country folk about broadband really does start to get on your tits.

        Like city dwellers you made the choice to live where you do knowing full well the pros and cons, deal with it.

        1. auburnman

          Re: The internet is vital.

          I love the way you assume I live in the countryside. For the record I live in a city*, I just happen to believe that internet access should be a universal British right for the quality of life it affords. I am arguing that is an essential, please don't compare it to upgrading your "shitty, tiny little garden". As an essential it should be subsidised by all.

          However I was specifically NOT arguing for an "economically unviable" broadband network, I was arguing that it should be looked at even if it is commercially unviable. The difference being a company will walk away if there is no way to make meaningful money off the investment. What I would like is for the government to order the network extended to (almost) everyone at a reasonable cost which they write off as money spent improving the country. I am not advocating building fibre to Orkney regardless of the cost; but there needs to be an acceptance that universal access takes priority over profit.

          "Like city dwellers you made the choice to live where you do knowing full well the pros and cons"

          Again, I live in a nice cosy city flat, but we've covered that; what irks me about this comment is the 'choice to live where you do' bit. Are you seriously suggesting that families should have to choose to leave behind the friends and communities they grew up in if they want proper internet access? And what about children, as you mention? They don't choose where to live, but proper internet access could growing up could change their life.

          *incidentally, has it occurred to you that if the countryside had more amenities, then more people might live there and it might have an effect on the overcrowding and high rent in the cities?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The internet is vital.

            "Are you seriously suggesting that families should have to choose to leave behind the friends and communities they grew up in if they want proper internet access?"

            Yes I am. I had to give up the self same thing to get a job, or should the Government make the employers come to me? My statement stands more than ever - you (that's people in the countryside not you in particular in case you still don't get that bit) choose to live where you do knowing the pros and cons so get on with it. Internet access is not essential it is a luxury item. It is not water, sanitation, food or electricity. Some people state "try living without it", you could say the same about TV and that's no more an essential but a luxury item people have become used to.

            Incidentally has it occurred to you that if the countryside had more amenities and more people chose to live there it would soon cease to be the rural ideal that it is and become very much more city-like as the population density evened out across the land - I doubt the country dwellers would go for that bit.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The internet is vital.@auburnman

            The internet is not essential in my view. I accept your right to feel differently, but you can then pay for others to enjoy rural broadband. I don't want to.

            As for "families should have to choose to leave behind the friends and communities they grew up in if they want proper internet access?" What complete 5hit. People have to move for education, for jobs, travel for healthcare, for better weather, for quality of life. There's nothing special about broadband internet, it is a utility that cannot be economically provided everywhere, and if those who want the access won't pay the appropriate cost, then they need to find another solution to whatever problem they have, instead of expecting everybody else to pay up.

  11. Hollerith 1

    "@baagirl retweeted"

    I seem to see a lot of sheep on Twitter already.

    1. Thorne

      Re: "@baagirl retweeted"

      Sheep don't need broadband, they have iPhones.

  12. MJI Silver badge

    Internet for sheep

    Pretty sure Shaun would use it, and I think Bitzer would as well

  13. John Arthur


    Looking out of my window over the Welsh countryside I can see lots of sheep, none of whom appear to be using broadband for anything. Meanwhile I am trying to use a broadband the speed of which is a tiny fraction of the one I left behind in Sussex last year. I want better broadband. I want it here and I want it now. Sod the sheep.

    1. Swarthy

      Re: Rubbish

      Isn't sodding the sheep the primary reason for moving to Wales?

      Or have I been listening to too many Londoners?

    2. Throatwobbler Mangrove

      Re: Rubbish

      "Meanwhile I am trying to use a broadband the speed of which is a tiny fraction of the one I left behind in Sussex last year. I want better broadband. I want it here and I want it now."

      Don't move to rural Wales from Sussex if you need an important bit of infrastructure that's not there, then.

    3. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Rubbish

      You do not know what they are doing when you are not watching them.

      See the Ardmann documentries.

  14. Havin_it

    Quick straw poll:

    Hands up who here doesn't want a power shower?

    (Please abstain if you in fact don't want [i]any[/i] form of shower or bathing experience.)

    Question B: Who here doesn't want an Internet connection? Oh, wait...

    1. LinkOfHyrule

      Re: Quick straw poll:

      I cant use a power shower they are not compatible with our douching attachment unfortunately.

  15. Rob

    Mental image

    I have a mental image of all these Lords sitting around a large table and someone pulling out a black box and saying 'This is the internet,The Elders of the Internet have given me permission to show it to you'.

    1. Rampant Spaniel

      Re: Mental image

      Only spoiled by the reality that the few of them that would actually be awake would be far too busy fudging expense claims ;-) mean sure I lived in that house all the time, I just turned up with a rangerover full of furniture the day after the press caught me out because Ikea had an awesome sale on!

  16. jusbriggs

    In the sticks

    I live in Cumbria. We have been passed up time and again for fibre and cable. We are home to the largest submarine building factory in the UK and yet we only have "up to" 20 mbps. I wouldn't say Cumbria was exactly flush with cash but if the government isn't going to pay for it why are we paying for others to have what we cannot? Surely a tax rate reduction would be sufficient to allow for the discrepancy. But then who would help pay for the rest of the infastructure?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In the sticks

      > why are we paying for others to have what we cannot?

      You aren't.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In the sticks

      So what?

      Sheffield is a city and has 20meg connection as well and has a lot more people to supply. What makes most financial sense to improving connections? Cumbria or Sheffield?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In the sticks

      Automatic downvote for someone complaining, when their own speed is somewhere between 40 and #DIV/0! times the speed of the people who really need the help...

  17. Tim Worstal


    It's so damn simple.

    Auction the damn spectrum.

    If it's more valuable as TV then TV will win the auction. If it's more valuable as broadband then broadband will win the auction.

    This is what markets are damn well for: to make people splash the cash to support their opinions.

  18. This Side Up


    I just don't need a muli-media fridge.

  19. Uberseehandel

    Yet Another Metrosexual View Of Life In Rural Britain

    Yet again the view of the chattering classes is shown to be firmly centred within the M25.

    This urban-centric view of Britain today is bunkum.

    So many jobs in rural Britain are tied to the minimum wage, many of the families live in what can technically described as deprived conditions, farmers average ages are over 50 and even in areas well served by HST1, rural development is constrained by the paucity of adequate Internet access speeds. Much as many people might like to move their businesses to rural areas, this is only possible if there are adequate Broadband speeds, download speeds of less than a quarter of a megabit a second can't support many users, the transfer of moderate image files, VoIP telephone systems or mobile phone network extension equipment.

    Providing rural Britain with better broadband access speeds will provide one of the most important planks upon which to rebuild the rural economy. In turn this will lead to greater social dynamism, higher wages and less dependence on income and housing support. From this viewpoint the economics of better rural broadband look quite rosy.

    We don't even need to deliver these services over copper/fibre; deep in rural Kent I am accessing the Internet using WiMax, that is wireless delivery at anywhere between 15 and 20 Mb/sec, with higher speeds available in the future. Pity about the deplorable mobile phone service.

    If the metropolitan elite wishes to turn rural Britain into a theme park then I suppose it doesn't matter, but those of us who do live in the country better broadband speeds are vital, the isn't much else around to drive economic development.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    And there's the third....

    Odd how things occur in threes. This week, I've heard one person asking why "his" tax is used for roads in our rural areas when "nobody lives here," said while talking to a resident. He didn't seem to see any problem using a road to get here for his holiday though. The next one was someone, also a visitor, claiming that rural dwellers can't live without being subsidised, but that statement was the full extent of his argument, and I think he'd peaked by that time, needing to get his next opinion when the DM appeared in the morning, no doubt. Now along comes dear Andrew suggesting that comms infrastructure is a city-only thing for reasons not entirely clear. Odd though, when said city dwellers come to a rural area, they create if they can't get a mobile signal, can't access the Internet, or can't download their pr0n quickly enough.

    In other words, there's a bigger issue at stake here than simply the assumption that a simplistic economic justification is a formative rationale for everything. Certainly here there are numerous small businesses which remain viable because of technical infrastructure, and there are almost certainly other nationally strategic reasons for ensuring that such capability exists.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sheep don't tweet...

    Sheep don't tweet, they bleat. Ergo, sheep use Bleater.

  22. Another Old Goat

    Surprised no one has brought up RFC3203 which defines the Packets over Sheep Protocol.

  23. arrbee

    - roll out broadband to all but the most isolated rural areas

    - move all broadcast TV & radio to the internet

    - complain about access speed everywhere

  24. Pete 2 Silver badge

    and it STILL sounds like an absolute bargain

    So even if we take the lowest figure cited, that coughing £28Bn will "only" increase GDP by 0.1%, where does that leave us?

    Well the UK's GDP stands at about 1.5 TRILLION pounds, so one-tenth of a percent comes to £1.5Bn. But that's not a one-off increase - it's every year. So the country would be "investing" £28Bn and getting an annual return of £1.5Bn - just over 5% - less than it would cost us to borrow that amount. In addition, £28Bn would add somewhere in the region of a quarter of a million job*years of employment, assuming whoever got the contract was able to take registered unemployed people, rather than bring in immigrant workers, thus reducing benefits costs, too. Finally, most of those billions would be spent in the UK - not spent on buying imports, so it is essentially money going round in a circle. The people who earn a salary from being employed on pushing out BB, will pay taxes and buy stuff with their pay, so a large proportion of it will either go back to the exchequer or will boost consumption for other goods - a small fraction of which might even be british-made.

  25. Graham Marsden

    "it represents the contours of a successful market"


    So what's next? There aren't many people in the countryside, so let's discontinue the postal service, bus service, in fact let's not even bother with providing them with a phone service.

    After all, it's only a few peasants and we can't make much money out of them, so why bother?

  26. totalpacketloss

    Not just the sticks

    Somewhat blinkered report me thinks.

    As someone who works in London, but lives in the sticks - let me say how much national broadband would also save. I would love to start up my own company and take on a few staff nearby - but there is no chance of that. 512k connections just aren't enough for people to work from home, video conference into clients and to be effective office workers. The Olympics are showing us that - we Government staff are banned from London for the duration and it's proving a strain to work from our various alternate bases.

    Want cheap affordable housing in London ? Well unless people can work in the other parts of the country - then your prices will stay over priced.

    Tell you what, we'll swap you some of our water for your broadband..... What do you meant there should also be water available to all around the country too ?

  27. Cupboard

    Rural broadband is necessary

    Without a doubt, rural broadband is necessary. There are a lot of government forms that farmers have to fill in online and they have no choice about that. Certain farm management software phones home every time you start it up to check for updates.

    And that's all before you consider the diversifications, I'm part of an electronics business that is run as part of the farm and getting up to date pricing, datasheets etc is pretty much impossible without a decent internet connection.

    Now on the farm I work on we have ADSL of sorts. It's actually A in the wrong direction (faster upload speeds than down) and is typically around half a meg. This drops to below dialup when it rains with the wind in the wrong direction. Take the not unreasonable scenario when you want to open said un-named farm management software just to quickly check on something, possibly for an operator that needs to get out in to a field, and it decides to update itself. It won't let you do anything until it's updated so you've got the farmer and operator both tied up waiting for your damp string to work. That update then means that I can't get the datasheets for some hardware I'm trying to build and it wastes my time too.

    I'm investigating a new (to us) brand of PLC to use in some of the products we design. The software for that is a 2GB download but thankfully they have the mush faster option available of sending it on a DVD in the post.

    What are we doing to try and alleviate the problem? Well we're hoping that WiSpire might eventually help but in the mean time we're investigating putting a second phone line in with a second ADSL line and some sort of line bonding magic. Up until that happens I'm getting rather too familiar with a slowly moving progress bar.

    If anyone has any opinions on how they'd improve things, I'd love to hear them :)

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you want rural broadband just invest in a few LTE base-stations, and use those, and accept that you are probably not going to be able to run a commerical video streaming service at the end of that piece of "string".

    Every major effort to build new <insert big cables in the ground> infrastructure in the UK since we employed the <insert workers of a colonial nation here> to lay the original copper has died horribly. The companies left today (mostly consolidated into VM) are the result of numerous debt for equity swaps and writedowns by the banks which funded it. It was a commercial disaster. If anything digging up the world has become _more_ expensive and difficult now than ever, so fibre and cable into rural areas is never going to fly?

    In fact even laying copper and telgraph was a commercial disaster. In the US most of it was funded by bonds which never paid back when the original companies went bust.

    If you look at most of the developing world where they do not have an established physical layer network they are just jumping straight into wireless for getting the web into the wilderness. It seems a far more pragmatic fix for the whole thing, and it should be something which is happening anyway - it just needs the government to force a "residential data tariff" agreement which prices the bandwidth sensibly.

  29. edge_e

    I thought...

    The whole purpose of privatising utility companies was because the private sector is far better at raising the money to do big projects like providing fibre to rural areas.

    I also thought they were able to do this more efficiently than the state therefor they wouldn't have to raise so much money in the first place.

    Further to this, since there are now loads of providers, they should all be competing to provide this at the lowest possible price.

    So how can it possibly be that we'll have to foot the bill?

  30. mrs doyle

    fast train for a few or ubiquitous for the country?

    Instead of a train saving a few minutes of a journey for a few, far better to get proper internet for all. It would save the government a fortune and easily pay for itself in the ROI. It would also save citizens a fortune too. It won't really work until everyone has access.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wanna bet...

    ...that the article author has broadband.

    Slam the door after I get in... thanks mate.

    The broadband doesn't have to be wireline or unrestricted (which is apparently what the quoted number is for). Plenty of wireless options, although I wouldn't count satellite. Horrible latency on satellite, can't run a remote server without expiring from boredom. Don't ask how I know, or how many meters of digging to escape that horrible fate almost worse than death (only the Reaper has: no iNet at all!).

  32. chrisf1

    Need data on baseline cost of public services

    Actually there are some interesting ways of doing this an net zero or better overall cost before even going to total economic cost. It's likely that delivering public sector services online is cheaper - and many public sector services are likely most expensive in rural areas (at least on a per head basis).

    If we could track that the costs and savings could well easily pay for the infrastructure possibly even without adding in the added value of wider private services. The missing data is normally a cross public sector understanding of the baseline costs.

    This could be linked to the sort of franchise/mutualisation model in the public services white paper order to handle the freeing up of investment and cross silo issues that plague public sector (so eg bundle up services and pay someone for achieving delivery by any outcome orientated means - ultimately the service is not the internet and online/offline hybrids will be required eg local nurse/remote doctor or even more generally remote cameraman linked back to various back end services and regulatory issues such as building regs). However some key policy/regulatory issues like public lending libraries being limited to physical books and similar issues would quickly surface.

    Given local authorities handle a couple of thousand transactional services finding a few reasonable subsets and piloting it a sepcified areas makes senses given any success could be easily replicated as all such areas are rural and sparsely populated.

    Might even find more things than few things urban councils could copy too. Like answering the phone and replying to calls and providing enough information to find out who's responsible for incomplete information at every turn - but i digress ...

  33. Denier

    Why do I have to pay for someone else?

    I mean us woolyback yokels sheeples etc really shouldn't need to pay the extremely high cost of policing all you hoodies gangsters and general thieves that live in cities should we?

    there is no crime in my village !

    also aren't there some areas of the country that have higher NHS costs due to poor health and conditions?

    why not make them pay more? bloody cheeky sods expecting me to pay more for their bad health

    perhaps we could pay for our broadband out of the refund that we would be entitled to under your idea that we should never subsidise someone else.

    1. Havin_it

      Re: Why do I have to pay for someone else?

      >there is no crime in my village !

      I'll bet there's no police station in your village either. Where I grew up, one cop-shop served hundreds of square miles. Doesn't mean the per-capita cost of policing your area's any less. Lot more petrol used, for a start. Also urban forces don't tend to get called upon for as much rescue and rescue-support work as their rural chums.

      >also aren't there some areas of the country that have higher NHS costs due to poor health and conditions?

      Yes, and in those "areas" (or as we call them, Scotland) the sickly wretches are decent enough to die younger, thus saving tons of cash on protracted messy end-of-life care (I mean, insofar as the State was paying for much of that anyway). No score draw.

      I do grok what you were getting at and don't entirely disagree, but you chose poor examples.

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