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Benighted bits of Blighty get better bird-based broadband


via Flickr © chantrybee (CC BY 2.0)

  • Subsidised satellite services come to the rescue of the digitally dispossessed
  • BDUK Better Broadband scheme available to both homes and businesses
  • Costs of equipment and connectivity impressively low
  • But subscribers will have keep usage under control to stay within broadband caps

Despite the promises that made over the years by successive UK authorities and administrations, many of the UK's remote regions still do not have anything like halfway decent broadband Internet access, indeed, far too many rural communities and businesses still have nothing that could remotely be described as broadband at all.

The UK government's much-vaunted plan for so-called "Broadband Britain" (wherein 'Broadband' means a munificent 2 Mbit/s. It is the very  definition of mediocrity  and might as well have been bandied about when Isambard Kingdom Brunel was deploying broad gauge on the Great Western Railway) was always lacking in terms both ambition and implementation and the scheme has missed targets time after time.

The result is a piecemeal patchwork of availability and speed of broadband access across a country that, whilst still (just about) the world's sixth biggest economy is but 57 per cent the size of the state of California. It's all really rather pathetic when you look at it like that.

Sure there's plenty of bandwidth to be had (at a cost) if you live in the UK's cities and bigger towns or are lucky enough to fall into the (admittedly growing) catchment area of the UK's few cablecos such as Virgin Media, but if you don't then, tough luck, live with it and one day you might get some limited sort of broadband... this year, next year, sometime.... never?

In some remote areas (such as the Forest of Bowland in north Lancashire, England) villages have banded together into co-operatives, negotiated their own way-leaves with local farmers and have paid for and deployed their own fibre infrastructure to tremendous effect. But such initiative are rare.

Satellite service bolsters far-flung broadband

However, there is one technology that can be relied upon to provide at least a basic broadband service to even the most isolated of remote areas, and that is satellite - and the British government has actually been backing a satellite connection subsidy plan to help cover the costs of up-front equipment, installation and account activation. Wales and two English counties, Somerset and Devon, have decided to go their own way and are running their own schemes while the rest of the country comes under the aegis of the "BDUK Better Broadband" scheme.

The BDUK Better Broadband subsidy scheme is now available to any residential or commercial property with current broadband speeds of less than 2Mbit/s. Residential properties can qualify for the subsidy programme get full connection to broadband services via the London-headquartered specialist ISP Satellite Internet for just £70. The subsidised deal includes all technical equipment, installation and account activation. Subscribers also get a free wireless router. Enterprises too are eligible for the subsidy but do have to pay up-front for a site survey.

Satellite Internet itself is a division of BeyonDSL, a company that was launched way back in 2001 by a team that was involved not only in the first IP-over-DVB-S trials in Europe but also the development of digital TV and interactive services over satellite.

Satellite Internet’s Business Development Director David Hennell said, “The decision by BDUK really is a game changer and offers a superb opportunity to broadband-starved residents and businesses to get connected to services that will improve their day-to-day lives. In covering the whole of the UK, the scheme really does provide the best assistance to disadvantaged premises."

He added, "We at Satellite Internet can now deliver qualifying applicants a radically improved offering for a very small fixed set-up cost, no matter how complicated the required installation may be. As a result, we’re already seeing a fast-growing level of both enquiries and orders under the BDUK revised scheme."

Satellite Internet is a partner of SES Techcom Services, whose parent company - SES - owns and manages a group fleet of over 50 satellites, delivering high-speed satellite broadband services across the UK and Ireland.

Satellite-based broadband access is not a perfect solution to the UK's digital divide - not lease because such solutions are always subject to interruption and attenuation due to the vagaries of the weather, which, in the UK and Ireland, can be very vagarious indeed - but they are very much better than not having any service at all.

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