Feeds

Broadband bumpkins overtake city surfers

Hay-chewing yokels stockbrokers lead the UK's charge online, Ofcom crows

Boost IT visibility and business value

Ofcom is prematurely claiming victory in closing the digital divide today, as its annual review of communications markets reveals that for the first time broadband uptake by country folk has overtaken that of urbanites.

Taking the UK as a whole, 59 per cent of rural households are now hooked up, compared to 57 per cent in the cities.

The watchdog's press release self-importantly burbles: "The rapid rollout of broadband services across the country has meant that most parts of the UK now have access to this service and today's report marks the end of the so-called divide."

Ofcom might be a little too smug, however, on several counts. There's large variance in uptake depending on which part of the country you're in. It's surely little surprise that the majority of country households in the south east's stockbroker belt have broadband. In rural Scotland, meanwhile, Ofcom concedes that it still just doesn't know how many households are in a BT "not spot" without the possibility of broadband access.

It happily notes there are 5,000 pages of Gaelic on Wikipedia, though. Which is nice.

When politicos, charities and other interested groups talk about the digital divide, they are not only referring to the inability of rural landowners to track their investment portfolio online - the divide is social as well as geographic. Indeed, Ofcom's own data shows the chaps down at Southwark Bridge Road are a little bullish in declaring the digital divide dead and giving themselves a lovely pat on the back:

The chart above, taken from the report accompanying the aforementioned press release, shows that working class people still lag way behind affluent "ABC1s" for internet access nationwide. The socioeconomic split on Ofcom's similar chart for broadband only is even wider, suggesting many of the poorest are stuck in the internet's dial-up slow lane.

Ofcom may claim it has the regional divide beaten for now, but the issue is certain to rear its ugly head again soon. The foot-dragging that characterised BT's rollout of ADSL to rural exchanges is sure to emerge once more as the UK's lack of a modern fibre to the premises telecoms infrastructure begins to bite.

The former public monopoly is already known to favour a piecemeal approach to fibre, naturally preferring to invest in high density areas where it can flog plenty of lines and services over the top. It's also lobbying hard for regulators to loosen its Universal Service Obligation.

Ofcom and the government have yet to suggest any solution to the small return on investment rural fibre would attract beyond incoherent mumblings about the possibility of a patchwork of wireless services for low density areas... or something.

In the meantime, the UK falls further behind rival better connected nations at a time of huge economic uncertainty, when competition for outside investment will only intensify.

The full report is here. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
UK fuzz want PINCODES on ALL mobile phones
Met Police calls for mandatory passwords on all new mobes
Canadian ISP Shaw falls over with 'routing' sickness
How sure are you of cloud computing now?
Don't call it throttling: Ericsson 'priority' tech gives users their own slice of spectrum
Actually it's a nifty trick - at least you'll pay for what you get
Three floats Jolla in Hong Kong: Says Sailfish is '3rd option'
Network throws hat into ring with Linux-powered handsets
Fifteen zero days found in hacker router comp romp
Four routers rooted in SOHOpelessly Broken challenge
New Sprint CEO says he will lower axe on staff – but prices come first
'Very disruptive' new rates to be revealed next week
US TV stations bowl sueball directly at FCC's spectrum mega-sale
Broadcasters upset about coverage and cost as they shift up and down the dials
Trans-Pacific: Google spaffs cash on FAST undersea packet-flinging
One of 6 backers for new 60 Tbps cable to hook US to Japan
Tech city types developing 'Google Glass for the blind' app
An app and service where other people 'see' for you
UK mobile coverage is BETTER than EVER, networks tell Ofcom
Regulator swallows this line and parrots it back out at us. What are they playing at?
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.