While struggling to load news wires and waiting, bored, as YouTube videos loaded, one particular press release caught my eye.
Ofcom, the U.K. telecoms watchdog, said that the country is well on the way to achieving the lofty goal of having "the best broadband network in Europe by 2015." Sure it is -- if you count the biased data and the fact the U.K. was only compared to five other countries, rather than all 28 EU member states.
Ofcom's broadband scorecard (.PDF) compares the price, speed, take-up of fast broadband and other factors only in the U.K., France, Italy, Germany and Spain, but touts the findings as Europe-wide. The defense? That comparing all states would be "unfair" due to the size of smaller nations.
The "best" is a lofty expression, especially when BT holds a monopoly on phone lines in the U.K. and it can take months to have broadband installed -- and weeks to have problems fixed. We Brits may have made progress in potential speeds, price and connections, but we are relying on an infrastructure monopolized by one company that relies heavily on contractors, has long waiting lists and does not allow for innovation or true competition -- which all impact on the future of the country's broadband potential.
Managing Director of fibre broadband firm Hyperoptic, Dana Tobak, may agree with this. The company has also disputed Ofcom's claims, saying:
"It's very easy to just put out a number saying average speeds are 'x', but how does it actually apply to people's experiences? If you’re on ADSL, speeds aren’t going up.
I think it’s valuable that there are places that are being exposed to faster speeds of broadband, but I just feel like inherently it’s overstating the progress that we’re making."
In addition, while Ofcom believes country exclusion in the report is acceptable, Hyperoptic chairman Boris Ivanovic brings up another interesting point -- that many countries left out of the report have better broadband networks. Scandinavia, the Netherlands and Belgium, for example, have far better coverage of areas able to connect to superfast broadband.