It isn't only the supermarkets that are ripping you off. All the UK's telecom companies, not only BT, but all the cable companies as well, are short-changing you in the line-speed they offer to your home and your business.
On a recent trip to Canada, I found that for over a year provincial telcos have been offering several megabits per second of broadband to the home - at a cost of #16.25 per month.
Here in the UK, megabit speeds at prices which individuals can afford are only commercially available in Hull, from Kingston Telecom. The rest of the UK will have to wait until BT completes its endless pilots, and trains up its "droids" to offer such unimaginable speeds. This is supposed to happen "by the end of 1999", but I have my doubts.
In Canada, small is beautiful. We visited the run-down Province of New Brunswick, population 750,000 humans and 10,000 moose, whose forestry and fishery businesses have collapsed over the years. Two years ago, the provincial government decided to "leverage teledevelopment" by creating a fast telecom infrastructure, with the help of the local telco, NBTel.
It started with offering a 10Mbps service to the home. NBTel got 3,000 users, who are now a "living lab" of how people behave when they have access to this speed. But the technology which they used, high fibre coax, needed a lot of digging up roads and putting unsightly splitter-boxes at street corners. The cost was immense.
Then ADSL came along where megabit speeds are pumped down bog-standard copper twisted-pair wire, and you don't have to dig up the roads. The speed is less, 148Kbps up and 2Mbps down, but already 80,000 homes have been "passed", and NBTel is confident of 7,000 broadband users by the end of 1999. These connections are "always on", so you can say goodbye to the 15 seconds of "moaning of mating modems" that accompanies any access to analogue services. Farewell to the World-Wide-Wait.
Incidentally, NBTel already has 70,000 Internet users, and 60,000 users of its "Call Mall" ECommerce service, both of which were stimulated by the provincial government waiving sales tax for PCs with Internet connections in 1996 and 1997. Not bad for a population the size of Bristol in a rugged area the size of Wales, with two languages, English and French, and where, in winter, if your car breaks down at night in between towns, you die.
If 2-10Mbps is what they pump into the home, what does business get?
For a small company, 25Mbps is considered just about adequate, but for providing a large corporation with reasonable multimedia services, 150-600Mbps is nearer the mark. So say the local telcos and Nortel Networks, the Canadian switch supplier.
OK, we asked, what do you use these blinding speeds for? For a start, the Canadians replied, just to make the use of the Internet tolerable.
If you use it at these speeds, you will realise how dreadful a modem is.
The other applications are full multimedia, meaning full screen video, tele-medicine, real home-shopping and non-jerky video conferencing. Software houses, with government help, are busy developing these high-speed multimedia applications.
These are radically different from our applications, where programmers spend all their time being clever about compressing data, and dealing with the limitations of our clunky line-speeds. In Canada, you don't have to bother. Your creativity can run wild. Life holds no future here. The UK telcos have let you down.
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