The UK is lagging far behind other nations in rolling out high-speed Internet services.
Out of 11 countries ranked by Internet measurement firm NetValue, the UK came tenth, ahead only of China in the number of broadband connections via ADSL, cable or satellite in people's homes.
In the UK only one in 32 online households (a mere 3.1 percent) have a broadband connection, whereas one in every two online families in Korea enjoys high-speed services. France has one in 16 households connected via broadband, twice that enjoyed in the UK. One of every nine US Internet connections is broadband. Countries surveyed included France, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Korea, US, Singapore and Taiwan.
More than half of the Korean online population has a broadband connection, which, according to NetValue, is altering their surfing behaviour and giving them a much richer online experience. Seventy-four percent of online Koreans used audio or video while surfing during the month of February, the survey found. In contrast only 33.8 percent of UK Internet users used audio-video services.
Vice president of NetValue Alki Manias believes that the government has its work cut out to make the UK the best nation in the G7 for broadband by 2005. "What is going to be the incentive? It could be that there are subsidies from government but I don't think that is going to happen," he said.
Manias identifies cost as the single biggest barrier to users getting broadband in the UK. "The government could talk to providers to make it cheaper. BT's pricing currently is prohibitive which might be changed when the local loop is opened up," he said. He is not particularly hopeful that Oftel will succeed in ending BT's monopoly of the local loop.
A survey from research firm Point Topic found last week BT's prices were among the highest in the world. "BT is definitely at the expensive end and I don't understand why they don't come out and say that is their policy because they are not managing to keep up with the demand they have already got," says Point Topic analyst Tim Johnson.
BT has always doggedly defended its pricings and it disputes Point Topic's figures. "It is notoriously hard to compare like for like," says broadband marketing manager for BT Ignite Rebecca Webster. Johnson claims the survey -- which looked at the cheapest residential prices in Europe and Asia -- did compare like for like. Prices across the globe range from around £20 to nearly £60 per month.
By its own admission though, less than half of BT's own broadband customers think its service represents good value for money. In an internal survey only 42 percent claimed that -- at £39.99 -- the service was worth the money.
Ntl offers an equivalent cable modem service for £24.99 per month. BT claims the service is more contended (ie more people are clogging the lines and therefore making it slower) but ntl disputes this. "Our contention ratio is 15 to one whereas BT's is fifty to one," said an ntl spokesman.
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