Old MacDonald had….broadband
OK, I admit it — I’m a Brit abroad and I’m addicted to the BBC website. There’s something very homely about reading stories about the UK, whether it be to commiserate Manchester United’s failure to get over the final hurdle or the latest story about Susan Boyle on Britain’s Got Talent. I was flicking through the site this morning when I came across this piece about broadband ‘not-spots’ in the UK and it set me thinking. There seems to be a growing recognition that everyone needs to have a broadband connection, or even in some quarters that broadband should be considered a ‘right’ for our citizens. But what is it all about? While it may be taken as a given in our tech community, why do we think about it in these terms?One of the better studies I’ve read recently on this was produced by MICUS for the European Commission last year. They conclude that adopting broadband based processes improves employee productivity, the increase in information flow creates knowledge-based specialisation and broadband enables service and process innovation. Cutting to the chase, what does this amount to? Approximately €450 billion extra in economic activity and 1.75 million jobs in Europe if we adopt broadband at a fast rate compared to a slow rate over the period 2006-2015. It’s something to think about in these interesting times.It’s not all about the economy; there are plenty of social advantages too. I’m writing this sat at my desk at home. While undoubtedly there’s an economic benefit to remote working, what appeals more to me on a personal level is the work-life balance aspect. While I’m not racing to live out in the countryside — I’m too young to be settled and prefer the bright lights of the city — why shouldn’t those among us who opt for such surroundings also be able to work from home? But the social benefits don’t just stop there. While I risk passing my word limit if I list them all, I’ll mention education, healthcare, entertainment, government services and online commerce as a few examples.‘Broadband for all’ is a worthy goal for governments to adopt and to give them their due, many European policy-makers are heading down that path. With the exception of Benelux (which arguably already have 100% coverage), all West European nations have either implemented such a policy or are considering it. With an eye to the near future, one thing European governments might want to consider is whether basic broadband at 1 or 2 Mbps is going to be sufficient to participate in digital society. The Internet is becoming increasingly video-centric with the advent and adoption of visual networking, high definition video streaming and IPTV, as well as consumer TelePresence. From that angle, Finland is leading the way with its ambitious target of 100 Mbps to 99% of homes and businesses by the end of 2015.Talking of video, if only the BBC could offer iPlayer outside of the UK I’d be a happy man….