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Digital Britain: Broadband

June 17, 2009

 

 

Ah me. Digital Britain. The broadband issue raises it’s head again. Sometimes I feel we’re going around in circles.

 

Discussing the Digital Britain Report, government tsar Lord Carter today (Digital Britain Unconference) dismissed broadband development and investment in infrastructure in the APAC region in particular as not relevant to us – rolling out very high speed networks across the nation as the basis for communication.

 

The speeds that are being discussed for Britain are slow and low, and the consumer has scarcely been considered.

 

Yes, we hear you when you say this is a minimum. But raise the bar. Show some vision.

 

Why would media companies facing downward price pressures invest in infrastructure for the few. Many of the people without broadband, being remotely located, are the ones who are most likely to use the services delivered over this infrastructure – they lack the ever open stores just around the corner that those of us in urban locations benefit from. The corner may be a very long way away.

 

So we have to subsidise. So subsidise something landmark. Something visionary. Something forward looking.

 

In holding up Virgin Media as a prime example of Digital Britain’s progress Lord Carter inadvertently revealed where the government comes from. Old fashioned, protectionist thinking?

 

Virgin is a British company doing well commercially, and for this they should be applauded.

 

But as a consumer they are a nightmare to deal with. They have call centres in India offering such poor customer service that can’t even send an email. My bills over the past year with Virgin have not been accurate once, and each time they changed me to a ‘cheaper’ tariff, my bill went up. For a while we tried to put it right. We have this month moved our services to a large US corporation.

 

In this kind of service the government puts its faith and money. Surely we should have more ambition than this. Surely we should be looking at world class infrastructure, not a world class catch up? Surely the consumer is as important as the competition?

 

I’ll happily up my £6 a year to £12 a year for Lord Carter to force Virgin (and, to some extent, BT) to bring their customer service into line as part of this massive government concession to a commercial organisation.

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