Bringing affordable broadband to neighbourhoods

Why bandwidth matters

'The future is multimedia. Increasingly, business to business, business to consumer, council to citizen and distance learning communications will comprise of a mixture of sound, graphics, video and data. To arrive promptly on the users's PC, television or mobile phone requires sufficient bandwidth.

Supplying clusters of customers - concentrations of business, high usage by the general public - with instant downloadable multimedia requires very high bandwidth. Without it, businesses will lose business, councils will fall behind in state-of-the-art communications with citizens, and citizens will suffer exclusion in a world where prosperity goes hand in hand with access to high bandwidth'.

What is broadband?

Most people at the moment use a modem to enable data to be sent to and from the Internet down their phone lines. This is sometimes known as 'dialup'. The amount of data that can be transmitted per second is known as 'bandwidth' and is measured in bits per second. The amount of data that can be transmitted by dialup has pretty well reached a peak of a theoretical 56 Kilobits of data per second (56 Kbps), with an actual performance closer to around 40 Kbps.
Broadband refers to technologies that can provide much higher bandwidths of 500 Kbps or even higher. There are a number of different methods to provide this sort of bandwidth affordably. However it is clear that broadband opens up a whole new experience of the Internet to people used to simple dialup connectivity.


There are two major advantages that broadband has over dialup: speed of download and the potential for new multimedia services.
Broadband allows even large files to be downloaded very quickly. This is not simply a matter of convenience, but it is likely to change the way we use our computers. It will allow us to treat the Internet as a gigantic hard disk. There will be no longer any need to download important documents and save them onto our own computer. It will be possible to just save the links, as clicking on them will enable virtually instant download.

Broadband doesn't simply mean faster downloads, it also allows a far greater amount and density of data to be transmitted. Broadband is needed for online multimedia training, and high quality video conferencing. Broadband allows fast interactive online games playing, and enables you to listen to radio stations from around the world and get high quality reception. It will also allow video on demand.

An increasing number of applications that are being developed for the Internet demand high bandwidth and so cannot be accessed by people with only dial up access. People with dial up access will therefore feel more and more isolated from the mainstream use of the Internet.

It is also important to remember that those areas which will have broadband access first will have the opportunity to develop new businesses that will exploit the benefits of broadband. The economy of those areas will be further strengthened at the expense of areas that are already lagging behind.

The problem

At the moment broadband for residential and SME use is largely delivered through cable and ADSL but this is not available everywhere and market pressures on their own are unlikely to provide universal coverage. The areas likely to be left out are small rural communities and deprived urban neighbourhoods, just the sort of neighbourhoods where the issue of social exclusion is strongest.

A possible model

There are indications from initiatives in different neighbourhoods around Europe that there could be a viable business model for connecting up a neighbourhood with broadband links and then connecting that neighbourhood to the Internet, to the public telephone system and to the cable networks. When this is done, bulk buying of telephony, data services and cable television becomes possible, resulting in lower costs to the consumer as well as providing revenue streams to offset the initial capital costs of connecting the neighbourhood up.

In addition, doing this would open up the possibility of a whole range of other managed services, to provide additional revenue streams. For instance new community businesses could be set up or existing business could be brought in with an agreed revenue share arrangement to provide services such as home security, or monitoring of elderly and frail residents. Utilities would be able to monitor utility usage without the need of home visits. Public bodies would be able to deliver online services to every home in the area, and could offer video conferencing facilities with key staff, which could result in significant cost savings.

IS Communications has carried out a thorough feasibility study for bringing broadband to a housing estate in Liverpool. Access this link to find out more...

Norris Green Case Study

To discuss bringing broadband to your area or talk through any issues raised in this case study please contact Michael Mulquin

What is broadband and how can it help to regenerate communities?

If you would like to gain a better understanding of broadband, its role in regeneration and how to provide it for residents, businessess and organisations in your area, we can provide a seminar which is specifically designed to meet your objectives. For an initial discussion, please contact Michael.