Thursday, March 17, 2011


Is Inverness the world’s back end with respect to broadband internet?

Imagine seeing a deal for a new car. The latest model. Very fast, super fuel efficient and very, very cheap. You head for the dealership only to be told that that is an online offer only, not available in Inverness. You shake your head sadly, and ask what else they can offer you. Well, in lieu of the latest model, they’ve got a clapped out old vehicle that’s not in very good shape and has worse fuel efficiency than a Sherman tank. Just as you’re about to agree to this deal they hit you with the good news; this car is more expensive than the latest model you came here for in the first place.

Of course this wouldn’t happen in real life, would it? Logic dictates that when a retailer is unable to provide you with their latest and greatest product they will at least have the decency to offer the inferior product at a discount. However if we apply this scenario to telecommunications such rules of decency are apparently not applicable.

Should you wish to connect to the information superhighway from Inverness you will find, online, a variety of offers from each of the major broadband retailers promising much. Up to 20mbps downloads with unlimited data, all for under twenty quid a month. Brilliant. Until you try to subscribe to the product, only to be told that these deals aren’t available in your area. What is available in your area is a slower connection speed (8mbps) with a 20gig data cap. And to seal the deal, guess what? That’s right – the slower connection with a limit of data actually costs more per month than the faster connection with no cap.

Do they think we are fools?

The explanation given by O2 is that the existing copper line hardware used for the slower service is owned by the BT monopoly. O2 (and other data retailers) have to ‘piggy back’ off BT’s lines. They pay a fee to BT, which is then passed on to the consumer. I don’t believe the consumer gives two hoots about why it is more expensive. Consumers will only notice the discrepancy between the promised land of cable delivered internet, and the cold reality of Inverness style, copper line network. And the consumers know they are being ripped off.

The chances of BT laying the latest optic fibre network in Inverness seem remote in the short term. The last metropolis to receive a roll-out was Aberdeen some two years ago – and even that roll-out was truncated. Residents of Inverness are not taking to the streets demanding such infrastructure, but secretly they are wondering why they are being treated like idiots by the major players. Surely there could be some commitment to at least match the value of the cable network packages to the packages on offer to places, like Inverness, that seem to have missed out on the latest technology.

Until such a time exists, government representatives and business leaders will continue to scratch their heads at the decline of local business, and wonder why nobody will take seriously their calls for Inverness to be leading the Highlands in the technology stakes.

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