OfCom favours fibre for the far-off
Ofcom has recommended that rollout of Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) should happen first in those areas with the poorest existing broadband coverage. The Ofcom Consumer Panel has said that policy makers need to take the opportunity of next-generation broadband networks to close the UK's digital divide.
Great Britain is not highly-ranked in broadband penetration. The world leaders are South Korea and Japan, but eight Western European countries and both Canada and Australia have higher adoption of broadband than the UK. Outside of the two Asian champions, Finland does best, with 61 per cent adoption and an average connection speed of 21.7Mbps. Sweden and France are close behind, with 27 per cent of Swedes having fibre-optic connections at home.
Britain's adoption of 51 per cent isn't too bad by comparison, but average speeds of only 2.6Mbps are on the low side, and a third of homes still have no Internet connection at all.
One problem is outlined by EC Telecom Commisioner Viviane Reding: "Unbundling of fibre is currently neither technically nor economically possible which means that alternative operators must invest in their own fibre or use a bitstream service of the incumbent" In the many geographic zones where infrastructure competition proves not to be feasible, appropriate regulation will continue to be the only way to keep competition alive."
The solution to this may lie in government incentives to roll out fibre earliest to areas that missed out on broadband first time around, helping with education, "telemedicine" and employment in regions currently at a communications disadvantage. Just as ADSL1 speeds of up to 8Mbps enable uses for an Internet connection unthinkable over dial-up, so will the 100Mbps of FTTH.