Super-fast broadband: Making the Social Case

First published here on 23/10/08.

Current discussions about next generation broadband have typically focussed on business and consumer needs, to the detriment of the social case.

Most articles on super-fast broadband major on how it will increase economic productivity or add further opportunities to turn your home into an increasingly fabulous entertainment hub.

This is all true – and of course very exciting – but I’m continually surprised that people aren’t beating down our door (and those of Government, business and any one else who will listen,) with examples of how super-fast broadband can promote social inclusion, improve medical care or be the delivery mechanism for a wider range of life changing and life enhancing products; especially products which help people often at the periphery of our society such as disabled or older people.

As a result, The Broadband Stakeholder Group was recently able to say that “so far, there is limited evidence of significant social welfare being derived from next generation access networks or services.”

I’m not quite sure why this is the case, but it could be that the technology and the applications which would deliver this does not really exist yet. If I’m wrong, then do let me know. I’d be really interested in hearing any examples of technology and projects in use at present or in development that use super-fast broadband networks to support citizens and consumers.

Of course it may be that a far better use of investment capital would be to focus on improving the reliability and consistency in today’s broadband. If services such as remote health monitoring and consultations, mentoring and befriending schemes, home and community security initiatives or life-long learning programmes can be delivered in this way, then would this not be a better use of resources?

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