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Broadband Britain: who'll pay?

12:59 AM Posted by Slamy

For American readers this is probably a bit of an ordinary day - you go about your business and there's every chance that when you wake up tomorrow things will be much the same as they were when you woke up today. In the UK that's not the case. In the UK the chancellor of the exchequer (the head of our Treasury department, or its equivalent) has been delivering his annual budget speech.
Not all of the changes are IT-specific of course, but one caught my eye. He's promised that by 2012 there will be ubiquitous fast broadband in the UK.
OK, we can take it as read that what counted for fast broadband ten years ago pretty much already is in the UK, and what counts as fast by 2012 won't count as any great shakes a decade later. This sort of pickiness aside, I do wonder who's going to pay for all this.

It's worth noting that many of our phone lines over here are years old. Granted they're not quite Victorian but neither are they as shiny or adaptable as many of their counterparts in America. And yet apparently we're going to upgrade the lot over the next three years.
This is of course going to cost money. Although our higher taxes are going up, I can't see how they're going to end up paying for even half of this. Contrary to what several wise voices in the press will tell you, nobody's certain exactly how long this recession is going to last. We've been overinflating the world economy for quite some time and are now paying the price. America and the UK are among those countries which have put a lot of resource into addressing the shortfall, propping banks and industries up. It's not been pretty and it'll need paying back.
And here we are talking about spending more on an infrastructure which, although not the whizziest or shiniest in the world, actually does the job for which it was designed pretty well.

I can't see how this is going to be affordable. I'll look forward to being proven wrong. I hope.

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