[access-uk] Virgin Media fastest broadband!

  • From: "Derek Hornby" <derek.hornby_uk@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Access-Uk@Freelists. Org" <access-uk@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 16 Dec 2008 23:43:59 -0000

The following appeared in The Times Tuesday 16 December.
Thought it may interest some of you here.

Millions are left in the slow lane as superfast broadband shows up UK's
digital divisions

Lilly Peel; Patrick Foster; Dan Sabbagh

It is the digital dream: an internet service fast enough to download a film
in seconds. However, it remains an aspiration, rather than a reality, for
millions of online customers as Britain becomes increasingly divided by
access to broadband.

Yesterday Virgin Media announced what it claims is Britain's fastest
internet service. Its 50Mb per second connection provides nearly nine times
the speed of the average broadband service, and can download a television
show in a minute, and an entire film in no more time than it takes to listen
to a pop song.

The service comes at a price, however: £51 a month, or £35 if users also
subscribe to a Virgin phone line for an extra £11 per month.

The actual speeds that customers can expect to achieve may be an entirely
different matter, however, as research by Ofcom, the industry watchdog,
that nearly a quarter of households do not get the broadband speeds for
they have paid.

The vast majority of the country's broadband internet is provided through
BT's telephone network. The farther you live from a telephone exchange, the
slower the internet service.

An 8Mb connection can be as slow as 512kb per second if you are five miles
from an exchange. It would cost as much as £29 billion for BT to upgrade the
whole country from copper wires to super-fast fibre-optic lines, a recent
report said.

Virgin Media's cable connection does not suffer from that problem, but the
service will be available to only about half of all households by next

At the moment it is accessible to 1.3 million homes spread around Britain in
places including Dundee, Bradford, Liverpool, Croydon and Wolverhampton.

Analysts said that Virgin's so-called super-fast service would be
dramatically slowed if customer numbers grew.

Ian Fogg, principal analyst at Forrester Research, said that customers who
signed up should not expect to obtain the fastest advertised speeds.

He said: "The reality will be a bit different. How successful it will be is
how successful Virgin Media will be with customers. The more customers that
sign up, the lower the speeds customers will actually receive, because of
the way the network is structured." Virgin Media insisted that extensive
trials on the network showed that customers would get speeds of at least
45Mb 80 per cent of the time.

Neil Berkett, chief executive of the company, said that the service marked a
revolution in the use of the internet.

"We're not just launching a product, we are catalysing a step change in the
UK's development," he said.

The announcement came as Kenneth Branagh, Richard Curtis and a number of
British film and television directors and producers called in a letter to
The Times for internet providers to do more to tackle illegal downloading.

The group, voicing concern that "the successes of the creative industries in
the UK are being undermined by the illegal online file-sharing", said that
internet providers should be compelled by law "to change the behaviour of
those customers who illegally distribute content online".

Callum McDougall, the producer of the James Bond film Quantum of Solace,
said: "Film-makers rely on DVD and download sales to recoup the costs of
making a film. There should be a law forcing internet providers to warn
customers when they download material illegally."

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