Broadband forecasts – where’s the net going in 2013?

Written by Simon Brew

February 11, 2013 | 10:19

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The first day of 2013 marked not just the start of a new year, but a milestone on the history of the internet itself. New Year’s Day 1983 saw the standardising of protocol for ARPANET – the precursor to what we know as the internet today.

This marked a significant turning point, taking a system with one foot in the Cold War from being a slightly shaky, academics-only network, to laying the foundation for something more solid and inclusive with the accessibility of the World Wide Web.

And with the pace of online development showing no signs of abating, what are the major issues likely to crop up in the world of broadband this year?

Cables to the countryside

Bringing broadband to rural areas looks set to be to be a major theme again in 2013. Last year brought much discussion of ‘broadband blackspots’, with research showing that when it comes to getting online, not all areas are created equal. And with the expectation that being web-savvy is key to progress in the 21st Century, getting everyone up to speed is increasingly a political issue.
Supporting the government’s pledge to have 90% of the country running at superfast speeds (potential download speeds of 24Mbps or more) by 2015, December saw the first village to benefit from the £530 million Rural Broadband Fund, when Ainderby Steeple in North Yorkshire got online with speeds up to 80MPs.

Communications Minister Ed Vaizey promised that some 40 more rural broadband initiatives will be funded under the scheme over the coming months. Meanwhile, Science Minister David Willetts has highlighted satellite broadband as being an answer to the problem of delivering broadband to the countryside.

How fast is too fast?

However, some are already questioning the government’s logic. A report by think tank Policy Exchange has argued that the government has become “overly focused on broadband speeds”. The Superfast and the Furious also claimed that “the case for spending any more taxpayers’ money to subsidise very fast connectivity is weak”.

Instead, Policy Exchange said the money would be better spent on helping to get more people using the internet – pointing out that some 10.8 million are still not online, with half of these being the over-65s. In addition, the think tank said the money should be spent on helping individual users and small businesses improve their skills to make the most of the opportunities afforded by the online world.

Telehealth taking off?

Another aim of the government is for 2013 to be the year that large numbers of people with chronic health problems are freed up from regular doctor appointments, instead being able to manage their conditions from home using broadband. Announced at the end of last year by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, the initial stage will see some 100,000 people benefiting from the scheme that is designed to “free people with long term conditions from the constant merry-go-round of doctors’ surgeries and hospitals”.

It would mean that people who suffer from conditions such as diabetes or heart disease could access information and log readings online – for example, blood pressure. Medical practitioners would be able to remotely access this information and converse with patients, meaning an end to routine appointments – and a freeing up of hospital facilities and medical practitioners’ time. It is hoped that some three million will be using these services by 2017.

To take advantage of the changing ways that we use broadband services, search for new year broadband deals. And if money’s tight after the festive period, try broadband comparison from TalkTalk to make sure you are getting a good deal.
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