Did you see the News at 10 last night? Item 2 was Broadband Britain. It somehow managed to climb in importance above the events in Gaza, in their editors eyes at least. The long and the short of it is this: the government have just produced a report that says that getting everyone in the country onto Superfast Broadband is going to be key to driving forward a strong, low carbon economy. Gordon Brown says that the ‘Information Superhighway’ (yes, he still calls it that) will be the 21st century equivalent of the rail and road network, key to driving prosperity.
What exactly do they mean by ‘superfast’ broadband? Well by 2012 they want every household in the country to have a 12Mbps connection. That’s fast enough to stream and download music and movies. To set that in context, the average broadband speed households currently get is 3.6MBps.
Sounds brilliant, doesn’t it? Yes it does, but where does that leave those companies already offering broadband services? Because central to the government’s plan to deliver the ‘next generation internet’ is the laying of fibre optic cable into every home. Apparently they’re already well on the way to having done this in many other EU countries.
In the UK, Virgin Media (previously called NTL /Telewest) have already spent £billions laying down fibre to about 40% of UK homes. And due to the pioneering nature of that bold move, and its relatively slow take up, thousands of investors have lost literally £billions in the process.
All the other broadband companies deliver their services over normal copper telephone wires, what we call ADSL. Most of them are basically reselling a BT service for a small margin. Other broadband companies have been frantically ‘unbundling the local loop’. This means they have been installing their equipment in local exchanges so that they no longer have to resell BT, and can take a higher margin. Its not quite on the Virgin scale, but 02, Tiscali, TalkTalk and Sky have spent hundreds of millions on this.
So now the government plan to spend money to give everyone fibre optic broadband, what happens exactly? Do they pay Virgin (who have the engineers and the expertise) to extend their network, and then give a bit of it to the other providers, according to their market share? Seems a bit messy, and I’m sure pretty unworkable. And unfair too, to those pioneers who lost the money in the first place.
And unfair to those companies (well Sky really) who already deliver music and movies through Satellite. If we’re all going to be getting it through fibre, is that the end of dishes on our houses? Once again its a bit unfair of the business pioneers at Sky. If you punish innovation – those who had the idea and delivered the service in the first place – by interfering in the market and not letting innovators realise the full potential of their investments, then guess what: no-one will innovate.
I seem to have got a bit off topic. The original point of this post was to ask what this all mean to those people building websites, people like us.
Well first of all it means that the potential audience for our websites are only going to increase, which is great. More people accessing the Internet means that there are more people that can see your website. And those people who are accessing will be dong so at a low cost and using a better service, so they’re likely to spend more time online.
Second, the services and features they’re going to be able to use will be much richer, use more bandwidth, and be more interactive. When it comes to you using the Webeden website builder, this means you can add in some of the more advanced widgets and features.
To start with, make use of interactive features such as the Chat module. You can use this to chat in real time to visitors to your website.
Next, make sure you’re getting the most out of the Jukebox widget. Its a whole new way of entertaining your visitors as their check out your website. You can either add your own tracks or choose from the library available.
Make sure too that you use plenty of images on your website. When it comes to site design, a picture really can mean a thousand words. Far better to keep the blurb short and sweet, and show what you mean with an image. Press adverts are almost always 90% image and design, 10% text. Advertising professionals have spent a 100 years coming up with a formula that works, so save yourself a bit of time and copy it!
Lastly but perhaps most importantly, now and in the time of Broadband Britain, make sure you are using video on your site. You can either upload videos into Webeden, or stream them directly from YouTube onto your website. You can resize the video to any size, drag it round the page, change the aspect ratio, anything. Research indicates that users spend 3 to 4 times more time on a page with video.
Broadband Britain. Exciting, yes. Confusing, definitely. An opportunity for website builders? Too right. Leave a comment below.