Access to Bandwidth: Implications for Rural Areas

Mon Mar 01 15:24:38 EST 1999
By Nigel Attenborough

The widespread availability of broadband services via the local loop could have a significant impact on access to services ranging from video-on-demand to employment information. The Consultation Document raises issues that will affect the development and rollout of the broadband network, which would give access to these services.

The purpose of this report is to consider the questions raised in OFTEL's Consultation Document particularly with respect to how they will affect rural consumers. Consideration is also given to issue, which the Consultation Document does not discuss.

This report begins with a description of the rural economy and the level of telecommunications service, which is currently available.

Section 3 considers the alternative technologies, which are expected to provide broadband capacity to the mass market over the medium-term and the potential applications.

Section 4 discusses previous statements made by OFTEL both generally with respect to regulatory objectives and particularly with respect to broadband services. It also briefly looks at the experience of introducing competition into the local loop in other countries and the regulatory approach adopted. These issues are dealt with in more detail in Appendix A.

The impact of regulatory action on the development of services will depend on several factors including the nature and cost of technology, the presence of operators offering services and the demand for those services. Section 5 analyses the current effective demand for broadband services and considers how this demand may develop in the future.

Section 6 looks at the questions raised in OFTEL's Consultation Document and discusses the appropriate response by the Rural Development Commission. It goes on to consider issues relevant to rural consumers, which are not discussed in the document.