One of the government's broadband advisors believes it will be users, and not telcos, who will create compelling high-speed Internet services. Erol Ziya warned telecoms firms not to use the absence of much compelling broadband content today as an excuse for lessening their commitment to technologies such as ADSL.
Ziya, a member of the Broadband Stakeholder Group, said that -- as with new technologies in the past -- it will be creative individuals who have the next Big Ideas. Speaking at the Last Mile Europe conference last week, Ziya urged home Internet users to tell operators to "deliver broadband to me, because only I can create compelling services using it".
He added that today's broadband scene is similar to the computer industry of decades ago. "With PCs, it was the end users who created the applications that spawned whole new industries", Ziya said, suggesting computer gaming as one activity that was too frivolous to be done on a mainframe, but one that is ideal for a home computer and has been a major driver for the industry.
The disappointing take-up of broadband in the UK is partly attributed to the fact that relatively few Web sites currently provide content that will entice users to upgrade to a high-speed, always-on Internet connection.
This leads to "chicken and egg" arguments in the telco industry. ISPs promise that prices will come down over time as more users graduate to a broadband connection once they realise the benefits. Meanwhile, media companies are reluctant to invest time and money creating broadband content when the market is so small.
AOL, which as part of AOL Time Warner could put thousands of films online, said last week that many of its narrow-band users would move to broadband if only it was more affordable.
Companies such as BT have teams of researchers working on broadband applications, including ways of streaming video across the Web in real time.
Ziya, who helped to run the Campaign for Unmetered Telecommunications (CUT), believes telcos should have faith in their customers. "I don't think BT Retail is going to build the killer app. I think that people like Shawn Fanning are going create it, working in their bedrooms," he said.
Peer-to-peer file swapping, brought to public attention by services such as Fanning's Napster, is tipped to benefit from the high-speed of broadband.
In its full report to the government, the Broadband Stakeholders Group (BSG) recommended that the government should stimulate the supply of broadband content, applications and services by providing credits to schools, providing tax benefits for broadband content creators and supporting content-generating projects.
The government agreed to all but one of the BSG's suggestions.
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