Rory Cellan-Jones

Compulsory broadband?

  • Rory Cellan-Jones
  • 23 Jan 09, 17:52 GMT

Should a broadband connection be compulsory for every UK resident ? Well of course not, but if you haven't got one yet, prepare to be battered into submission.

Digital Britain - a major report from the technology minister on our high-tech future - is due to be published next week (which is very inconsiderate of Lord Carter as I will be away on holiday). And it looks as though the report will focus on measures to close the digital divide and ensure that everyone in the UK gets access to broadband. So how are we going to get there?

Right now around 60% of households have broadband. That leaves the government with two issues to address - finding a way to connect the 1% who just cannot get it, and persuading the 39% who haven't bothered that they really, really need it.

The 1% problem may not be too tricky to solve - as long as enough money is thrown at it. Mobile and satellite solutions should patch the holes in the fixed-line network.

But what is going to make over a third of all households decide that finally it's time to get connected? Someone in the broadband industry admitted to me that ISPs haven't really worked very hard at this. "The market has never been very good at this - it just doesn't understand this type of consumer. They'd rather concentrate on competing for the two-thirds who've got it and upgrading them, rather than going for the one-third which they don't understand and don't know how to get to."

So what do we know about these people? There is evidence that, with take-up of broadband slowing, there is now quite a substantial slice of the population which is in no hurry to join the revolution. An Ofcom report last year looked at reasons for people not having broadband - which it describes as "voluntary or involuntary non-ownership".

"Voluntary" non-ownership means people who just don't want it - that accounted for 16% of the population in Ofcom's survey and most of them said they just did not need it. "Involuntary" is that group which would like broadband, but finds it too costly or too difficult to use.

So this latter group may have to be wooed with cheaper and more user-friendly services. The problem here is finding ways of subsidising the minority, without distorting a market that works pretty well for the majority right now. So if you're paying £15 a month for your broadband, how will you feel about your neighbour getting "broadbandforall" at just £5?

Getting everyone online will be hard. After all, nearly 30% of households don't even have a computer at home. The answer here, according to someone I chatted with at a big ISP, is television.

Just about everyone has one of these, so they may have to be the route to the fast internet for many - though linking the TV screen to a broadband line won't necessarily deliver the educational benefits the government is seeking. Do we really want children who don't have a computer at home to do their homework on the telly?

One measure that would drive take-up amongs the "voluntary" non-users is making more government services available exclusively online. But just how popular a measure would it be to tell the elderly, for instance, that they could collect their pensions online but not at the post office?

So I will be interested to hear what ideas Lord Carter has to make the internet as common a utility in British homes as running water. But maybe compulsory broadband isn't the answer.


  • Comment number 1.

    The statistic that is missing to put this information in its proper context is what percentage of those without broadband are completely without internet access and what percentage are still stuck using dial up modems.

  • Comment number 2.

    "Compulsory" broadband doesn't sound very nice. But the idea that everyone should have access to broadband is a good one. The current system of having lots of ISPs competing for a profit isn't going to achieve this though. If theres more profit to be made in cities, then they have no incentive to go into rural areas.
    Universal broadband can only realistically be achieved if its done by the public sector. If water infrastructure had relied solely on the private sector from its outset, I'd say there'd still be remote areas today without it.

  • Comment number 3.

    It's not about just giving people a PC and Internet connection. It may even be a waste of money to do so.

    I had to consider this as part of my work last year. Below I summarise/quote just some of the findings from a 2007 UK Online report: "Understanding digital inclusion" based on Ofcom and ONS data. Any emphasis is mine.

    Access is not enough - 9% of the population (a quarter of non-users of the Internet) live in households WITH internet access, but DO NOT take advantage of it.

    39% of non-internet users (representing 13% of the total adult population) said that they DO NOT WANT to, NEED to, or have an INTEREST in using the internet.

    3% of people are digitally determined - they go out of their way to use the internet, even though they do not have easy access.
    This 3% remains roughly constant over time.
    The constant size of the determined group, however, suggests that the GROWTH in digital inclusion has mostly come directly from non-users WITHOUT a connection at home.

    An analysis of the ONS 2006 data of those people who are digitally excluded (i.e. no use in last three months and no home internet access) shows they are:

    AGED over 65: Nearly half (46%) of digitally excluded people are over 65.
    Exclusion increases with age, so that, while 60% of the 65-74 age-groups are excluded, exclusion rises to 79% among those over 75.

    ECONOMICALLY INACTIVE: Two thirds of digitally excluded people are economically inactive. Even controlling for the presence in this group of those aged over 65, the economically inactive people are still very likely to be excluded.
    Those who have more social needs (poor health, seeking work, live in social housing etc) - and so require more interaction with public services - are less likely to be digitally included.
    People who are socially excluded or living in areas of high deprivation are likely - even if they are internet users - to have lower skills and use the internet for less - sophisticated purposes.

    LOW QUALIFIED: 62% of those with NO educational qualifications are digitally excluded - compared to only 6% of those with a degree.

    LIVING ALONE: 69% of those who live alone are digitally excluded.

    In addition: Skills for Life found that 61% of the members of their sample (who said they HAD ICT skills) were NOT ABLE to fulfil a BASIC series of functions which may be considered essential to make use of a conventional personal computer.
    Of particular interest is that even among frequent computer users (those who use computers twice a week or more), 40% still did not achieve this benchmark.

    The report also concludes:
    'The strong correlation between social exclusion and digital exclusion implies the digital divide is not a problem which is likely to be solved in isolation from other policy areas.'

    Full summery of the report: "Understanding digital inclusion - A research summary" is here: PDF.
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    It'll be interesting to see if the Govt. has taken notice of the above in its proposals.

  • Comment number 4.

    Thats Nice. But we havent even caught up on the last round of technological upgrades. We dont have any mains electricity even though the pilons are only about half a mile away. We do have broadband however. 3Mbit infact. ??

  • Comment number 5.

    That would be a wonderful idea in the long-term for everyone in United Kingdom to get Compulsory broadband....

    ~Dennis Junior~

  • Comment number 6.

    The emerging pay-as-you-go mobile broadband market would appeal to those wanting to avoid being tied into a contract that they feel might not be value for money for them.

    No one provider has ticked all the boxes of coverage, compatibility and value for money yet. For instance, 3 network is poor in rural parts of Scotland, Vodafone's payg offering doesn't work with Macs (while oddly their contract offering does!), and o2 gives only one month's usage per every £15 spent, making it little better than a tied contract.

    Competition in this market ought to resolve those problems, and offer a solution for those who want access to broadband, and are less tempted by the ever faster speeds offered by landline connections.

  • Comment number 7.

    why do people need a broadband connection?

    I use mine for work and emails and the iplayer...that's mostly it really (except this blog).

    I can imagine people can well do with most of that.

    Many of those who have it probably just use it for games or hardly at all..where's the benefit there?

    WHY do people NEED a broad band connection...if they haven't already got it they DON'T NEED it (they might want it)

    You need water and shelter, you don't NEED a broadband connection.

  • Comment number 8.

    I help a number of 'older' people with their computers, and although most of them find it really quite hard, just having basic email and internet access really helps them. It keeps them in touch with people, it gives them things to do (e.g. watch iPlayer), and it stretches their minds a bit too!

    The internet is an amazingly equal place - you can be 13 or 93 and as long as you can type you can take part in a huge number of things. Sure, a lot are geeky things, but in 50 years time, today's 20 year olds will still probably be just as capable (unless things move on massively!) Imagine how much open source projects etc will benefit from thousands of retired and bored programmers!

    I think that the 39% without broadband aren't really an issue, it's perhaps the % without dialup that is. Afterall, broadband is really only better than dialup for entertainment purposes (watching iPlayer etc). Dialup works perfectly well for basic internet access (email, checking government websites or whatever).

    The government are hardly the right people to try to sell The Internet to people who don't 'get' it...

  • Comment number 9.

    There are for me two fundamental issues that are not really being shouted about here..
    1. the issue of future proofing....I like the point about the potential of 'retired' programmers' and remember in ten years time or so most of the population whatever age will be computer literate to some extent.
    2. The remarkable fact that the benefits of computer technology do not require maximum use of potential facility.
    Who amongst us does max out the potential of each app... the real benefits of IT are the communications potentials and the control and comprehension available as we cherry pick our usage without penalty for being so selective.
    The simplest examples for me are the Spreadsheet and online banking.
    A spreadsheet and or database allows me to manage my money more closely because it takes the drudge out of double entry bookkeeping and online banking allows me to deal with ongoing underlying expenditure without needing to make trips to my bank.
    Oh, also the ability to manage the time when you access information and not be driven by the timing of say news bulletins and programme schedules is massively valuable so yes BROADBAND AVAILABILITY FOR ALL- it's a 'no-brainer'. Get on with it now!

  • Comment number 10.

    I used dial-up for nearly a decade.

    My eldest nephew started A-level studies last September, and his brother started on GCSEs. My mother decided to subscribe to broadband to assist with their work.

    Why didn't I do it myself earlier? Probably because of the filter, in which the modem and telephone have separate sockets, which would have gone into the existing telephone connection - my mother would have noticed!

    I regularly download virus definitions from the Symantec website. Previously, the maximum speed I got (using a download manager) was 5.7 KB/sec. With broadband, it's over 700.

    Invest in broadband if you can.

  • Comment number 11.

    There are one or two valid points raised here, but the key issue I suspect is simply that they dont want it. We get carried away with everyone wanting mobile boadband, more tv channels, faster connections, etc.

    However I spend much of my time with people who have no idea of their mobile number because it is 5years old, at the back of their glove box and has a flat battery. They only switch the TV on to get a specific programme then off it goes. They have a 1960's typewriter which they use to generate minutes of the club they belong to - cutting and pasting involves scissors & glue - but they dont spend a couple of minutes booting up the pc.

    I'm sure this minority dont account for over a third UK popln but I do think there is a number who dont need broadband because they dont have a PC and have no desire to spend a few hundred pounds which would normally go on food and heating.

  • Comment number 12.

    There's one big advantage of broadband that nobody has mentioned—getting updates. With an always on connection a domestic machine receive updates to web security software, the operating system and applications that rapidly plug security issues. The current worm (see is affecting corporate computers (in defence and health especially) because updates are not automated

  • Comment number 13.

    Yes, let's pump a fortune in public sector money into adding more people to an already outdated, over-subscribed and overloaded broadband system. That way we existing customers can all enjoy the benefits of a massive speed decrease as the exchanges are swamped by file-sharing children. Had this country opted to replace it's ageing telecoms backbone with fibre optic when it had the chance nearly three decades ago it wouldn't be a problem. Unfortunately the non-cable market is stuck with decrepit twisted pair copper wiring that can barely support half advertised speeds at best. I'm already paying through the nose for a service I don't get the best out of, thank you very much. How about connecting libraries and community centres via cable for those without broadband at home? Or is that too sensible?

  • Comment number 14.

    How sickeningly stupid.

    To assume that te 39% don;t know how to get broadband is pathetically patronising. The truth is tht mny of them either don't really see the point of having it or have no need of it. Many people still get their net access fix via work or university, some perfer to pay a few pounds monce a onth to check emails and look up stuff at a net cafe instead of peying the broadband fees. But my guess is that most of them are happy without any internet connection at all.


    There's one big advantage of broadband that nobody has mentioned?getting updates.


    That is only a advantage to anyone who ctually uses the internet, if you dont use it then the chnces of an infection are minimal at best in the first place.

  • Comment number 15.

    Remember this is Britain. As soon as the government tries to convince people to do something, the population will try their best to do the opposite :)

  • Comment number 16.

    We over at the states are starting to have the same discussions. problem is can government actually do anything worthwhile.
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 17.

    Simple solution for the 39 percent who haven't gone for broadband: make it really cheap - maybe incorporate it for a tenner a year on top of the BBC licence fee!

    But, Mr Cellan-Jones do PLEASE take note:
    What SHOULD be compulsory is the availability of the BBC IPlayer worldwide - what the hell is the point of the internet if one of the best sites out there (the Beeb) is suddenly all but unavailable in a televisual context once the White Cliffs of Dover have disappeared into the distance?

    A businessman away for a couple of days in Germany, Spain, France, wherever, or a student on a foreign placement or a UK retiree having a soak of the sun on the Costa - or a simple expat: They likely pay their dues for their circumstances regarding where they live so why can't they watch that episode of whatever which they happen to have missed?

    Roll out the IPlayer worldwide - no half-soaked international version.

  • Comment number 18.

    The problem is that Brown has already rejected the idea of any public money going into the next generation of internet infrastructure. And that is what it is - infrastructure. We will therefore be stuck with a uneven commercial implementation.

    Compare this with Obamas approach in the US where he considers the internet a key activity for economic development.

    I do not see what the issue is about everybody being connected.

    Some for whatever reason will not wish to have connection. It is up to them.

    A cheap discount option will not work. That assumes the market reacts to cost but where people opt not to participate, largely the case at present, then there is no market.

    The only inclusion which would result from discounting is likely to be low income families who feel they cannot afford the current cost.

    There are otherways of dealing with that (such as digital bursaries for schoolkids) and they do not make up nearly 40 percent of the population, so by definition there are adult refuseniks.

  • Comment number 19.

    Give everyone the opportunity to have broadband but don't foist it on those who don't want it. Sounds fair?

  • Comment number 20.

    Why is anybody talking about subsidies for the terrestrial companies to provide broadband for the homes/businesses who can't get it - when there is a perfectly good alternative: satellite broadband. For the 3.5 billion quid talked about, we could put in free 2MBs satellite broadband for 2.7 MILLION homes and throw in digital TV as well so that's the digital switchover problem sorted for those homes as well.

  • Comment number 21.

    In third world countries the mobile phone is the mechanism used to get onto the Internet. The EU has made good progress at forcing the various vested interests to reduce their prices.

    A similar attempt should be made in the UK to keep prices down to sensible levels. The phone market in UK is a complete mess -- 0870 numbers should have been reduced in price but again vested interests have managed to scupper any promised changes.

    This would be a good political move, as so many use mobiles. Reducing the fear of going online via your mobile would give access to 90% or so of the population.

    £15 per month maximum to use your phone online?

  • Comment number 22.

    There are other ways to conquer the "digital divide" than by increasing the availability of internet connectivity.

    What is really needed, is new legislation to ensure that those who do not have access to computers are not treated unfavourably. That means an end to price discrimination and online-only selling.

    There are actually people out there who do not *want* computers around them, and would prefer to visit a real shop and pay for their goods with pound notes; just like we already managed to for hundreds of years.

  • Comment number 23.

    I think the real kicker in all this is three things.

    1, Broadband is seen as a needlessly expensive service that many people don't want. Why would older people want broadband? Many of them don't and it wouldn't surprise me if they made up quite a bit of this 39%. Why advertise to a market you would never win over?

    2, We don't actually have broadband here, we're pushing copper wire far more than it needs to and BT are so damn cheap they wouldn't bother in investing in new technology for years. Yes, you can get ADSL2 and if you live in a cable area you can get 50mbit... but the majority of people can't get the advertised 8mbit they were promised anyway.

    3, Connection shaping and caps are a real joke. Why is it that any time between 9am and 9pm is my internet speed never above 3mbit? If my speed lowers, I want my bill to be cheaper. It becomes simply impossible to stream a lot of HD content online and is one of the reasons why it really hasn't caught on in this country.

  • Comment number 24.

    "A businessman away for a couple of days in Germany, Spain, France, wherever, or a student on a foreign placement or a UK retiree having a soak of the sun on the Costa - or a simple expat: They likely pay their dues for their circumstances regarding where they live so why can't they watch that episode of whatever which they happen to have missed?

    Roll out the IPlayer worldwide - no half-soaked international version."

    Presumably you'd be happy to pay an £800 per year licence fee to fund the extra rights costs for this? No? That's a surprise. Me neither.


  • Comment number 25.

    The increasing pervasiveness of the internet made available through wireless broadband is starting to bring about a revolution to the way services are delivered to users; specifically I am referring to "On-Demand" or "Cloud" that support the human need to pay as little as possible, gain the most amount and do it immediately.
    Many of these services are largely irrelevant to those that do not currently make use of the internet (I'm thinking iTunes and iPlayer to name but two) as "Analogue" alternatives exist to fulfill that niche....however I believe we are in "Slack Water" and the tide is beginning to turn as we start to see some traditional services expanding out as On-Demand accessible only via the internet.
    Take for example the broadcasting of live events with user selectable cameras (i.e. always watching the Football match from the same camera rather than allowing the producer to decide), On-demand film premiers screened at the same time as they are watched by Royalty.
    When a new shopping centre is constructed the main store takes centre stage and many other support shops (food, accessories, entertainment) surround it to provide the full experience........we just need to see those centre stage "normal" services appear.

    IMHO (As a WOA Solution Architect) I believe we will start to see digital Entertainment Shopping Malls take a strong position (we already see the start of it in the Sony PS3 Home). It'll be a place where folks can be entertained, educated, talk to their real friends (yes like a phone call) and listen to music, Podcasts, audio books; watch tv, films old and new, when they want (on-demand) and pay pennies at a time to do so and paid for through your mobile communication device bill (micro billing via multimedia phone or 3G netbook evolution hardware)....we will know where are friends are (GPS meets Google Maps) and we will know what they are planning to do next (Twitter)...Run while you still can.

  • Comment number 26.

    I think the government should put some effort into improving broadband in rural area's firstly. We live in a small village in North Lincolnshire, and were informed some time ago that we could have broadband. Unfortunately our only option is via the BT phone line we have although we do have another ISP. At best, we get 512K which I understand is the slowest broadband you can get. There is no chance of this improving without major investment. We can use the connection for web browsing, but we cannot watch any of the TV download facilities, i.e, BBC Online Player etc as the connection is way too slow. If we try to connect more than one pc to the wireless router we have it drops off considerbly and is only marginally faster than dialup. Compulsory Broadband Connections would be good for people that want them. I'd be happy to get a decent service on a par with the speed we see in the nearby town.

  • Comment number 27.

    Well thank goodness for the internet, without which I still wouldn't have a clue what a WOA Solution Architect. Mind you, without the internet there'd be no such thing as a WOA Solution Architect ...

    I have difficulty understanding what all the fuss is about here. The Worldwide Web has only been with us since 1992 - prior to that the internet was a very different place and definitely not for the casual user. 16 years later I think we're doing rather well to have 60% of the population not just accessing the web, but doing so with fast, modern connections.

    Contrast that with the telephone, which took more than 30 years from the first suggestion of the idea to A.G. Bell actually making it work properly and getting his patent. And, some 110 years after that patent was granted, my grandfather died without ever having had a telephone in his house. If he needed to contact someone, he crossed the road and used the one at his son's house (my uncle).

    Within the statistics being thrown around here is a simple generational issue. Some people simply get comfortable with the way they live and communicate and have no desire to learn something new when what they already have works perfectly well. And why should they?

    My mother doesn't even have a computer and I have no reason to think she ever will. Why should she have to learn about software updates, patches, firewalls and antivirus solutions? The only thing she really misses out on is the chance to see the latest photos of her grandchildren. But then if she wants up-to-date photos, we can (shock, horror) print and post some, or else she comes to visit.

  • Comment number 28.

    Instead of assuming that the Internet must inevitably end up becoming a necessity, why not work towards ensuring that it remains a luxury? Perhaps not an expensive luxury; but I believe nonetheless that nobody should ever be discriminated against for not using the Internet, whether that be by their own choice or the dictate of circumstances.

    Reducing our dependence on computers will also reduce our dependence on proprietary technology. The likes of Microsoft are currently in a position to hold a lot of people to ransom, and that cannot be considered a good thing by anyone's standards.

  • Comment number 29.

    "The answer ... is Television"

    Well yes, and we're already starting to see this happen. Look at the new Samsung flat-screen models that have internet access built into them - complete with a web 'widget set' that provides functionality.

    I think it'll become like a souped-up version of teletext, delivering entertainment to our TV sets that's a lot more interactive (eg games).

    I'm sure the ISP exec you spoke to thinks TV-on-demand is the 'killer app' that will drive broadband takeup. I don't think so, I think it'll replace video with mixed "rich multimedia" content.

  • Comment number 30.

    Maybe people should learn to read books, instead?

    The first thing I thought of when I read "compulsory broadband" was 1984, by George Orwell. Indeed, I rather suspect the author had that in mind when he choose his title for the article.

    But not one single response mentions the possibility that big brother would simply love to be able to watch you 24 hrs a day, and to monitor everything you read, everything you buy, everyone you write to, and every group to which you belong.

    Big brother wants that information, if for no other reason than to collect taxes, and to sell that information to corporations for marketing purposes. And to prosecute terrorists, of course.

    Well, I suppose Orwell also said that it was the lower classes who would demand their own enslavement, just so they would know where they stand in the world, so they would be afraid.

    It is eerie, the one radical invention in 1984, the novel, the one piece of "far out" technology that Orwell needed to invent, was a computer screen that could look into your room, that could not be turned off. He was such a massive intellect, that man. It is so hard to believe he was English.

  • Comment number 31.

    Maybe people should learn to read books, instead?

    The first thing I thought of when I read "compulsory broadband" was 1984, by George Orwell. Indeed, I rather suspect the author had that in mind when he choose his title for the article.

    But not one single response mentions the possibility that big brother would simply love to be able to watch you 24 hrs a day, and to monitor everything you read, everything you buy, everyone you write to, and every group to which you belong.

    Big brother wants that information, if for no other reason than to collect taxes, and to sell that information to corporations for marketing purposes. And to prosecute terrorists, of course.

    Well, I suppose Orwell also said that it was the lower classes who would demand their own enslavement, just so they would know where they stand in the world, so they would not be so afraid.

    It is eerie, the one radical invention in 1984, the novel, the one piece of "far out" technology that Orwell needed to invent, was a computer screen that could look into your room, that could not be turned off. He was such a massive intellect, that man. It is so hard to believe he was English.

  • Comment number 32.

    Sorry, am I missing something here? What on earth does it have to do with the government if some people just don't want broadband? Surely that's their decision? I really can't see why the government is spending my money worrying about imposing something on folks who don't want it.

    Now making broadband universally available to all those who do want it is quite another question. Why can't they just focus on that?

  • Comment number 33.

    How about reframing the question. Of the 39% who have 'no broadband access', how many of them have a mobile phone?

    Mobile broadband services are probably the best way to go as more and more desert fixed lines. We must also face the fact that some parts of the exisiting population just don't want it. It may also be fair to say that this profile is likely to change over the next 10-15 years. Older people on fixed incomes will (and I hope this doesn't sound too callous) die off fairly quickly, even allowing for the againg of the population.

    The other question to ask is: why does everyone *need* broadband so badly? Or are those of us in the online community blinkered to the fact that many can quite easily and happily do without it?

  • Comment number 34.

    I'll believe it when I see it. The village I live in (Carrshield) has been campaigning to acquire Broadband for 2 years now. We have a potential solution on the way that will provide us with up to 0.5Mbit/s (I emphasise the "up to", and yes, there is a decimal point in there). But this has been so far dogged with problems, many of which have been inflicted upon us by BT.
    So, like I say, I'll believe it when I see it.

  • Comment number 35.

    And it's not just broadband. I'm currently trying to get an ISDN-based phone system installed for my business. You might think that that was a pretty mature technology and easy to get hold of, mightn't you?

    Think again. I've been advised that the necessary infrastructure isn't in place, and if we want an ISDN 30 line installed, there will be a GBP 8000 installation charge. We're a small business, and that pretty much rules it out for us. Of course in more urban areas it might not be a problem, but here in this little rural backwater known as London, it's a big problem. We can get round it by using ISDN 2e instead, but it's disappointing to be forced into using an older technology.

    That sort of thing is, of course, pretty much predictable given that BT have a monopoly on the phone infrastructure. Why doesn't the government concentrate on doing something about that?

  • Comment number 36.

    Okay, here is a really really simple reply:

    You Don't Need Broadband.

    It is perfectly possible to lead a full, healthy and well rounded life without ANY internet connection or computer at all.

    If you want to contact people, you can walk up to them and talk or phone if you really want to.

    You could write a letter.

    One of the biggest Cons of the internet is in education.

    It is argued that it is vital for children to have broadband for their education.

    Trouble is, IT has made education far more complex to manage, the internet is drowning in misinformation (including Wikipedia, despite the hype), and we are complaining that our children are less well educated than we were.

    Also, the government want us to decrease energy use and become greener and get out of debt - yet they want us to buy more computers?

    I am an expert in the use of the internet. And I KNOW that it is over hyped.

    The best thing I can say for it is that ... ummm ... er .... actually I cannot think of anything.

    Didn't have it when I was a child, and yet I knew as much back then as my kids do now.

    So, where was the progress again? Oh yes, it made Bill Gates rich.

  • Comment number 37.

    Gurubear, above, is quite right.

    And there's a great difference between the internet and running water. Plumbing fixtures do not come with an "end user licence agreement" stipulating exactly how, when, by whom and how often they may be used. You are allowed to study how a ballcock or a plate-to-plate heat exchanger functions, if you so desire.

    The Internet is built almost entirely around locked-down proprietary technology, defining the roles of "passive consumer" (you) and "active participant" (big businesses) more sharply than ever before.

  • Comment number 38.

    Even *more important* NOT to mess around with & modify the Private Communications between people NOW isn't it?

    If you want to know why the Internet is in great Danger of becoming a Manipulate Media Channel instead of a good source of information feel free to use your Search engine using the Keywords "Nebuad" Phorm " BT Webwise" etc!

  • Comment number 39.

    By the Way Try That & I'll dump my Broadband, I'd rather starve that live in such a Draconian Society!!

    But just how popular a measure would it be to tell the elderly, for instance, that they could collect their pensions online but not at the post office?

  • Comment number 40.

    My Mum doesn't want a computer, she's happy with her old manual typewriter and newspapers. She thinks computers are evil.

    She doesn't even want a new telly, even though teletext has died on it.

    She doesn't even have a phone line and even if she had the money to get one installed she doesn't want to because she doesn't want to leave the landlord that she's been in dispute with for the past 12 years over damp-proofing the place with a phone line that she's paid for.

    She's certainly doesn't have the extra money to cover the purchase and running costs of a computer/set-top internet box either.

    She can't go to the local library to go online, even if she wanted to, as she's dependent on an intermittent disabled taxi service and a rubbish electric wheelchair with a range of about a mile. The costs of maintaining the wheelchair and getting the taxi services along with all the other everyday things constantly wipes out her meager savings.

    I can't pay for everything myself because no-one wants to employ someone like me who's lacking in relevant skills, qualifications and experience to get anything resembling the kind of disposable income needed to do so.

    So forcing her to get online is going to be a problem.

  • Comment number 41.

    Your mum is right. Computers are evil. My mum thinks the exact same of them. (Although I'm pretty sure my mum has based her opinion on the Terminator movies)

    Seriously though I am happy with the contention ratio in our area and more people will just make things slow down.

    People can live without broadband and mobile internet, I grew up without it. However my nephew is addicted to the internet whether it be through broadband usig his laptop or Xbox or indeed his mobile phone. When his connection to the interweb is lost he seems to become lost and unable to communicate or live a normal life. It's scary to think how much things have changed in the internet world since I was at uni.

    I really do feel sorry for people in smaller communities where the ISPs don't care as there isn't enough money to be made. My colleague who works as a senior network support engineer, operating on N3 lines and optical whatdoyoucallits can only get an "up to 0.5mb service"....

    It seems somewhat ironic that this happens to him considering he spends most of his time working with fancy Cisco switches and firewalls all day long at super duper office speeds. Also his mobile reception at home is so bad he would be lucky if 3g or HSDPA worked for him.

    Still it could be worse, my friend who works in Ghana get's access for about an hour a day at dial up speed and it seems fall over all the time. Mainly I suppose due to rolling powercuts.

    So I suppose I am saying it is possible to live without broadband... Although I probably couldn't if I am being honest.

  • Comment number 42.

    I am getting a bit tired about how everybody's mum has difficulties with computers. I am 78, have been using computers for years and could not continue to be an active translator without computers, broadband, etc. So yes I do NEED broadband as do many people who want to boost their pensions with a little honest work. Just make sure everybody who wants it - even in the depths of rural England (and France where I live) can subscribe is all I am asking governments to do.
    As to forcing people who have no need and think computers are too much for them, that is plainly ridiculous.

  • Comment number 43.

    My mum doesn't have broadband. There is an old computer sitting in a spare bedroom which my late father used to use for writing his (never published) novels but since he passed away it's never been used and besides, it was a stand alone computer.

    My brother lives in Australia and my mum does moan from time to time that he doesn't call her (not helped by the time difference of course). I point out that if she had an internet connection she could email him at her convenience (although to be honest I think he'd be about as good as replying to emails as he is in phoning). She could get photos of the nieces she's not seen in years sent over and maybe even book herself a flight to go and visit them!

    But I don't think it would ever enter her head to get an internet connection - she's managed for over 70 years without one and doesn't need it for her day to day life. Long ago, when she was in full time work, she used a typewriter, and part time jobs she had in later life didn't require the use of PCs. If she did have a connection she could probably find uses for it but I doubt she'd even know how to go about arranging for a broadband connection, never mind procuring a computer with internet connection. And she wouldn't know what to do if it went wrong. My mother in law, and several aunts and uncles are in the same category.

    That's not to say everyone's mum, or automatically anyone over 70 anyone has no interest or problems in using the internet - but clearly a lot of them do. Their numbers will diminish over time but I suspect there will always be asmall minority who don't want the internet or can't see the use for it.

  • Comment number 44.

    It is sad to hear that only 60% of the households have access to broadband in a well developed country like UK. The problem is not with the people because they may not have the awareness to the advantages of internet and hence it is the government which should take the responsibility to promote the situation of broadband in UK. At first,the Government should conduct broadband & internet promotional campaigns to bring awareness among the people. Then it should establish broadband connections.There are three issues in establishing broadband connections in UK

    1. Setting up broadband connections for the remaining people in urban areas
    2. Establishing broadband connections in the rural areas
    3. Upgrading cable wires to fiber optics to make broadband faster

    So,the Government should have a proper planning on this and come up with the goal of connecting the entire UK to broadband.

    As the government cannot work single-handedly, it may allocate slots for the rural areas for the private
    broadband providers to take care of their allocated areas and everyone will fight hard to make their areas well developed with broadband connectivity and make Britain digitally united.


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