We live in a digital age, one which surrounds around the internet. It is the single most revolutionary invention of mankind, so much that this era is now known the ‘Internet Revolution’. The internet has had as much of an impact in changing the world as the wheel, the electric motor and the telephone.
We do all kinds of things on the internet. We stay in connection to the people we love, we do business with people millions of miles away from us, we buy different kinds of products and services, we stay updated with current affairs and much much more. So, having such an impact on our lives, one could fairly argue that the internet is now not a luxury, but a need. A requirement for the common man.
But there is one shocking information regarding our rights to internet access. Just until last year, the minimum broadband speed which the Internet Service Providers were legally required to give to a UK citizen is just a mere 28.8Kbps, or the standard speed of internet in the dial up ages!
The Prime Minister, David Cameron has recognized this issue and said the following statement::
“Access to the Internet shouldn’t be a luxury; it should be a right – absolutely fundamental to life in 21st century Britain. That is why I’m announcing a giant leap in my digital mission for Britain. Just as our forebears effectively brought gas, electricity and water to all, we’re going to bring fast broadband to every home and business that wants it. That’s right: we’re getting Britain – all of Britain – online, and on the way to becoming the most prosperous economy in the whole of Europe.”
This renewed commitment by the Prime Minister is bound to have extremely positive effects on Britain’s economy as a whole. Just recently, at the end of last year the Universal Service Obligation (USO) for minimum internet speed was increased to 2 Mbps.
Ofcom also suggested giving higher priority to UK citizens’ internet requirements, the same way priority is given to water, gas and electricity. Also, to increase trust and transparency, Ofcom is also releasing a network monitoring app which will tell users whether they’re getting speeds they paid for or not.
But here’s where it gets exciting: By 2020, just four years from now, up to 98 percent of Britons will be able to get access to speeds greater than 10Mbps. The government will use various technologies other than fixed-line setups to make the plan a reality. It is rumored that they are considering the use of satellite, wireless and mobile networks in a mix to get the 10 Mbps speeds to all.
But as many people in the country has access to greater speeds, even more than 24 Mbps, there is concern that will 10 Mbps connection be enough? The answer is yes. In today’s age, the most popular apps are Facebook, Netflix and YouTube. A stable 10 Mbps connection is more than enough for this. Even a 4 MBps connection can adequately load HD Videos, a Skype call and resource heavy websites.
There is also the question that 10 Mbps many be enough for now, but what about 5, 10, 20 years later? Well, the USO is said to be made in such a way that future amendments would be easier and the government would stay with the times, increasing minimum speed requirements when deemed necessary.
One notable advantage of this USO is that small businesses will benefit greatly from it. Nearly half of businesses in the UK have deemed internet being essential to their prosperity . But the problem is that many are unaware of the availability of super fast, high speed internet in their respective areas, namely due in part of their ISP’s habit of only promoting their maximum speed offerings, while leaving it up to users to themselves to search for the low end packages.
Many business owners admit that they aren’t aware of many of the internet package offerings and hesitate to either subscribe or upgrade their internet packages for their shops due to their concern of the high costs. But this is about to change as the government is set to promote their initiative and tell the people of UK about their right to demand at least 10 Mbps internet. People and businesses will benefit as more and more of them take their services online and hence, give a boost to the economy. Small businesses will able to compete with their larger counterparts and also contribute more services to the community.
But all this will take time to achieve, because simply put, 10 Mbps speeds for all people is not financially easy to implement. There is no guarantee that people in the rural areas, the majority of the people deprived of high speed internet will actually embrace the new speeds and pay accordingly. Because it is predicted that the government would first be spending money on putting the pipeline in place and then hope that people will pay for the cost as subscribers. This is not a realistic situation. Unless the government can know for sure whether the majority of people will pay, like in urban areas, 10 Mbps internet for whole of Britain seems well out of possibility. But again, this situation is concerning just a small number of people, 2-4% of the whole population.
For the greater part of the society, this USO will be a blessing, provided that the pricing is competitive. People will engage more on social media and government websites. They will offer more goods and services through the internet, increasing the rolling of cash. And due to this, Britain may as well become the first smart and fully digitized country in Europe, increasing the overall quality of life of its people.
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