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UK does U-turn over Olympic broadband squeeze

The extra strain the Olympic Games will put on broadband service is unlikely to cause outages or slowdowns for businesses, the UK government has said, in a departure from earlier advice
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor on

Businesses can rest easy about disruption to broadband connections during the Olympic Games, the government has said, in a departure from earlier advice.

In February, official handouts (PDF) warned businesses that their ISPs might need to increase usage caps during peak hours and that drop-outs in internet service could occur in extreme cases. On Friday, however, the Cabinet Office said that efforts to improve the UK's broadband infrastructure have eased the potential strain on networks.

"The situation has moved on considerably since the advice for businesses was published," a Cabinet Office spokesman told ZDNet. "We do not now believe there is likely to be any impact on the UK internet infrastructure during the Olympic Games."

"High-speed broadband rollout is ahead of the originally anticipated schedule and has significantly increased the UK's internet capacity," he added.

The updated advice comes with only three weeks to go before the summer Olympics begin in London on 27 July. Up until now, businesses have been kept in the dark as to whether the threatened broadband capacity issues or disruption would become reality, as no government body or official organisation would accept responsibility for keeping them informed.

BT is in the middle of a massive roll-out of fibre-based super-fast broadband, with the aim of covering two-thirds of the UK by 2015. In April, the company said it was expecting higher-than-normal demand on its network during the Olympics, but said its increased capacity meant it would not need to bring in traffic management to handle this.

However, the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) said at the same time that while its members might not introduce caps, they might use technology to manage the network at peak times to stop access from stalling completely.

Despite its message of reassurance, the Cabinet Office on Friday was still telling businesses they may need to take preventative measures, noting that their contract with their ISP will dictate how stable their access is.

"If a significant number of employees were to watch the live streaming of an event, it could significantly slow a company’s network speed, if there is not enough network capacity available to cope with the increased traffic demand," the government spokesman said.

"Companies could choose to have certain types of internet traffic prioritised to protect business-critical internet access," he added.

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