RS 2: Britain

Broadband speed map reveal’s Britain’s New Digital Divide

In the article, “Broadband speed map reveal’s Britain’s New Digital Divide” from the Financial Times, Alan Smith introduces how the digital divide commonly refers to the “gap in speeds between rural and urban areas that seemed to offer privileged access to the Internet for those people who live in cities” (1). Surprisingly, in the UK, broadband speeds seem to be “twenty times faster” (3) in some rural areas with Internet even more accessible than in some inner-city zip codes of places such as London and Manchester. Smith explain that the reason for this anomaly is that “small telecom operators such as Broadband for the Rural North (B4RN) and CityFibre have replaced old copper wires with their own fibre-optic networks that are independent of the traditional national network controlled by BT (British Telecom)” (5) in rural communities. The B4RN network arose when “a group of local residents pooled their resources in 2011 to dig their own trenches to lay fibre cables to connect farms and isolated homes” (14). Connections in main city centers of London, Manchester, and Liverpool are currently below the universal service obligation that the British government is aiming to put in place in the coming years. Even though broadband speeds are faster outside the city, there are still many areas in rural parts of the country without any access and terribly low speeds. The government has enacted a program with the mission to increase people’s connectivity to full fibre networks. The current goal is for “five million [more] homes to be connected to full-fibre networks by 2025” (21) and to possibly make the switch from old copper wires to fibre-optic networks in urban locations. Companies such as OpenReach, Virgin Media, Infracapital and others have all pledged to invest in broader access all over the country with a focus of enhancing broadband speeds in metropolitan areas.

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