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I agree with your analysis generally, and the point that without a connection a cheap laptop is pretty pointless. As it stands, unless the government is prepared to fund it, Net access is in the hands of the private sector and the first priority provision is to turn a profit.

As a result, we end up with proposals that don't really cut it. Things like access provided by housing associations are all good and well but are still supplied at to the associations at market rates. Globally it's even harder to fund the business behind providing connectivity.

In the UK, barriers to entry may be removed to an extent when BT finish rolling out 21CN, its Next Generation network. This is an IP Network that will provide a single point of access for voice and data at the exchange. What that should mean is the separate charges for Broadband activation and rental and phone line rental become a thing of the past. I say should because I expect it will still need regulatory and political pressure to make it happen.

I can't see WiFi being viable in it's current form, although I've yet to play with the new N standard. Wimax has potential, but I think the most likely path to decent quality access with a low entry cost could be 3G provided by the mobile networks. That won't cut it for high demand applications, but there are already some cheap mobile data plans on offer from a couple of the providers. (At least, they are cheap if you don't use them abroad!) Of course, the phone companies still want their money back so I can't see it being made very affordable for everyone for a long time to come.

The fact is that costs have tumbled for access, all be it with a loss of quality (even the best consumer ISPs in the country have many support and service horror stories told about them). That's nowhere near far enough to allow the sort of access that you've hinted at Seb, and I can't see much change unless there is radical intervention from politicians to ensure access for all.

I'll save my comments about http://www.thestar.co.uk/rotherham/Plan-to-boost-community-internet.3623270.jp for another time :-)


I live in a very poor county in remote Georgia USA and we are one of 7 counties that the governor of the state of Georgia has funded wireless access for. The entire counties will be covered with WiFi by the state... yes, politicians need to involved and I believe starting in poorly covered areas IS what they should do.

I traveled to this blog via Stephen Downes and am quite impressed and am mentioning you today in a blog post. Great observations.

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