Broadband

Introduction

Broadband is no longer considered a luxury item, in fact it is now considered as the fourth utility.  As evidenced by so many things no longer being performed via paper at previous levels, such as completing our tax return and renewing our road fund tax.  Many Banks are closing their High Street Branches since so many people use the Banks’ on-line services.

State Aid

Government has been funding a rural Broadband programme for several years in an attempt to make the service available to all its citizens.  However, in light of the cutbacks it is making across the board, it has announced that it will be scaling back this programme.

The strategy has been broken down into three stages;-

  • Wave 1 – 80% to 90% consumer coverage
  • Wave 2 – 90% to 95% consumer coverage
  • Wave 3 – 95% to 100% consumer coverage

It is the gap between intended and actual coverage that has been funded by Government, around £30m so far.  It is estimated that 96% of Hampshire properties will be covered by September 2018.  Wave 1, ensured 63,000 customers had Broadband coverage.  The plan is for Wave 2 to mop up another 34,000 properties.  Of the money paid to BT to fund this infrastructure, there is an element of claw-back or gain-share when the number of customers to the service increases.  However, maybe due to the disparity in costs, a number of customers are not opting for the more expensive Superfast Broadband options, making the case for providing subsidies even less viable.

 

Technology

Currently the technology dominating the delivery of Broadband is copper cable and even though the transmission speeds along this medium have improved in recent years, the new lines being laid are fibre optic.  Signal attenuation increases significantly on copper cables in excess of 1Km from the telephone exchange where the transmission speed drops from 24Mbps at the exchange to 8Mbps.  By the time the signal is 2Km from an exchange, the transmission speeds will be almost zero.  A new initiative is to install mini-telephone exchanges to improve signal continuity.  Due to advances in modern technology, it ids foreseen that the min-exchanges would be so small that they could be mounted on telegraph poles.

Financial Costs

The bulk of the cost of the rural Superfast Broadband programme is the purchase of the cabinets, which is around £100,000 each.  No wonder then that for communities of 10 to 15 houses will not be wired for Broadband since the payback period on customer charges would be far too long.  The council has to date funded the installation of 355 such cabinets.  With the economies of scale, the new fibre-optic service is sometimes undercutting the cost of the traditional based service.  Some customers are discovering that a new lower cost service has been made unavailable for which they were unaware.  It is beholden for them to check out services such as “BT Checker” or “Broadband Checker”.  The later not only provides information on the availability of the service, but lists suppliers and their tariffs.  Go to Hampshire County Council’s Superfast Broadband website for more information about their initiative to ensure that the many rural areas of Hampshire receive Broadband and register your interest to be made aware when Superfast Broadband comes to your neighbourhood.  It is estimated that the last it is not economically viable to deal with the last 4% of properties with Broadband transmission speeds below 2Mbps.