ALMOST 40 per cent of Australians own a tablet computer, a figure that is expected to rise to 50 per cent by the end of this year and 71 per cent in a year’s time, according to a survey conducted by digital industry body AIMIA. – The Australian
Do you think sales of ‘standard’ PCs will be up or down in Australia next year?
The UK Government’s has proposed that virtually all premises across Northern Ireland should be able to access a broadband service with a speed of at least 2 Megabits per second (Mbps) by 2015 and to provide superfast broadband to at least 90% of premises with speeds in excess of 24 Mbps.
DETI is considering those homes and businesses in Northern Ireland, particularly those in rural areas, where the choice of broadband provision is limited and/or the available speeds are less than 2 Mbps.
It is my contention that this thesis is flawed due to the definition of 2 Megabits per second being described as “broadband” is functionally incorrect. While this figure may have been sufficient in 20085, it was outdated in 2008 (at the time of the publication of the Northern Ireland Digital Content Strategy) and by 2012, this description is utterly unfit for purpose.
The following is a document I wrote in support of the Belfast City Council UltraFast Broadband SuperConnected City bid. I like to think that it, in addition to the other documents we supplied, assisted the council in achieving the £13.7M target they aimed for.
The Broadband Blueprint
Setting the scene:
Since 2003, with the launch of the iTunes Music Store, our bandwidth demands have increased more than 1000-fold. In 2003, we were content to download 3 MB music files. In 2012, we expect to be able to easily download 3 GB high definition movies and maintain multiple streamed internet video sources such as iPlayer, iTV Player, Netflix, Youtube, LoveFilm and 4OD. Broadband speeds have not increased to cope with this demand with most of the province still experiencing sub-1Mbps speeds and only very specific regions able to receive “SuperFast” broadband.
A family of four (2 adults, 2 children) may expect to be able to stream YouTube videos while watching time-shifted television on iPlayer while, at the same time, children are playing networked Internet games hosted on Disney and XBOX Live. A single high-definition (and highly compressed) video stream may demand around 4 Mbps. Each user on a broadband link will therefore need their own bandwidth and their overlapping demands create “contention” for the available bandwidth. When this is combined with ISP-mandated contention, broadband downstream speeds can fall significantly below advertised rates. A modern family therefore requires a minimum of “SuperFast” broadband just to be able to be an active consumer in the current digital content market.
What is SuperFast Broadband?
The definitions of broadband were provided as follows:
Sub 24 Mbps downstream
24-80 Mbps downstream
80 Mbps+ downstream
This describes only one of four criteria we use for defining broadband.
It is important that we define what we mean when we refer to “high bandwidth” connections because that is only one of the four criteria and for digital businesses may not be the most important of the four.
Downstream bandwidth – the available bandwidth as advertised by an Internet Service Provider used for receiving files from the Internet. Actual performance will depend on other factors including the upstream bandwidth speed at the content location. Upstream bandwidth – the bandwidth used for sending files and content requests to the Internet. Sending files will compete for bandwidth with content requests and delivery. Latency – the time taken for content requests and administration signals to arrive at the desired location on the Internet. This is important for many online games and audio/video communication as well as time-critical operations (such as within bank trading systems). High latency connections can feel slow. Contention – the number of times an Internet Service Provider has sold a unit of bandwidth across a pool of customers. Consumer broadband in Northern Ireland usually has a contention ratio of 50:1. High contention connections will feel slow as customers compete for bandwidth (upstream and downstream) and latency.
We would suggest a simpler metric for broadband.
In 2001, a connection was described as broadband if it was 512 Kbps downstream and 256 Kbps upstream. Over the last decade, the demands for broadband have increased over 1000-fold. In response we must meet the demand head on.
Northern Ireland describes broadband as any link above 2 Mbps downstream in rural areas and 10 Mbps in urban areas. The region is currently not delivering this access.
In 2012, a broadband connection should have a minimum of 1000 Mbps (1 Gbps) downstream and 1000 Mbps (1 Gbps) upstream. We must consider the demands of the next decade for content consumption and creation.
Now physicists say that adjustments can be made to the proposed warp drive that would enable it to run on significantly less energy, potentially brining the idea back from the realm of science fiction into science.
“Everything within space is restricted by the speed of light,” explained Richard Obousy, president of Icarus Interstellar, a non-profit group of scientists and engineers devoted to pursuing interstellar spaceflight. “But the really cool thing is space-time, the fabric of space, is not limited by the speed of light.”
With this concept, the spacecraft would be able to achieve an effective speed of about 10 times the speed of light, all without breaking the cosmic speed limit.
But recently White calculated what would happen if the shape of the ring encircling the spacecraft was adjusted into more of a rounded donut, as opposed to a flat ring. He found in that case, the warp drive could be powered by a mass about the size of a spacecraft like the Voyager 1 probe NASA launched in 1977.
“These 10 cities have produced ambitious and comprehensive plans, which will turn them into digital leaders, and give their local economies a real boost,” she said.
Momentum/Digital Circle gave a good amount of (free) support to the Belfast bid when I wrote a manifesto paper on the definition of broadband and a ten pager on what could be done for local business, for local people and for innovation with a major investment in telecoms infrastructure.
Considering that a third of the population of Northern Ireland lives in the Belfast Metropolitan Area (which includes Lisburn and Bangor), it’s not a large amount of money and it’s important to mention that this level of investment needs to be made across Northern Ireland. And it is equally important for the cities who benefit to remember that they are not just cities, but they are the hubs of their region. Belfast, as the “capital” of Northern Ireland, has a responsibility to all of Northern Ireland.
And, like so many things, you can’t invest outside of Belfast based on per head of population when you are dealing with areas of the country which are remote or rural. It will take more investment to bring them up to 21st Century standards of broadband because they are already so far behind.
Derry is in the next list of cities to be considered for investment by central government. I think it would serve all of us well to consider how we can help them. It won’t arrive in time for City of Culture, but it may help extend the legacy of 2013.
Jesus of Nazareth is attributed with saying many things. “Blessed are the meek” was one. “My kingdom is not of this world” was another. As far as we know, he never said, “This thing’s never gonna fly unless my followers can secure a whole raft of legal, political and economic privileges.”
Secularism says that religion and belief are no business of the state. A secular state offers no special privileges to anyone because of their belief or lack of belief, nor does it disadvantage anyone likewise. A secular state frees believers from religious persecution and non-believers from religious compulsion. Who in their right mind would want anything else?
My first answers; Equality, Opportunity and Vision
My second answers; Segregation, unemployment and cronyism
The second answers are, essentially, watered down versions of the first answers.
At an RSA-inspired “Civic Innovation” workshop organised by @denisstewart, I heard an impassioned speech by Dr John Barry about the need for equality in our society, about how we are divided between the haves and the have nots. And how equity in society would solve many of our ills. While I agree it would solve many problems, it would create more problems because we have not yet overcome greed. There is also the aspect of human endeavour and the need for reward. For someone to work 70 hours a week in a manual job and be paid well for it and for someone else to spend that time developing a blister on their thumb from their state-subsidised XBox is not an equitable situation. While there are many deserving cases of equality, I can point at many who need to take their future in their own hands.
The sub-issue of segregation is much more easy to resolve. I drove up to the new e3 Campus of Belfast Metropolitan College and my satnav (I always use my satnav) took me up past the peace wall, a road I had never driven before.
If ever you needed evidence that the peace process in Northern Ireland was a sham, this is it. We still have communities divided by fear, we still have riots in deprived areas of our society (over funding for ‘community groups’). The truth being that the terrorists never went away, the government just started paying them to stop killing people.
We are a society that, if it was an individual, would be given treatment for post-traumatic stress. Our emotionally damaged hive-psyche seems to limp from one victim mentality to the next. You only have to look at this rubbish.
Our politicians are, almost without exception, partitionist. They thrive on dividing the people among primitive tribal lines. They can be denominational (catholic, protestant), nationalistic (republican, nationalist, unionist, loyalist), urbanist (urban, rural), geographic (east of the Bann, west of the Bann, NorthWest, Belfast) and ridiculous (Israel, Palestine). While we let these small-minded bigots rule us, is it any wonder our society does not progress.
I have never had trouble getting a job. My opportunity was always limited by my desire to do things. Like Rory McIlroy I was mostly shielded from the Troubles. It was a self-imposed exile. I socialised with friends from every segregation in society. It didn’t matter which religion or region you were from.
I see opportunity everywhere.
I can understand that this vision of opportunity is not held by all. And when there is no opportunity in sight, corrupt elements are able to take the hopes of the young (and impressionable) and turn them to work. Look at the average rioter in the recent North Belfast disturbances. These are children of the era of Peace.
Unemployment isn’t the only issue here. Dissatisfaction is an issue. A feeling of discomfort exercised into rage by community leaders and partitionist politicians. And those who excel, become community leaders and politicians. How many of these young people have the opportunity to escape this tiny circle of unrepentant hate?
I was born in 1972 and, as such, I’m a child of my time. My nightmares were of the Cold War turning into a Hot War (this did not happen). Of being beaten as I walked home from school on account of my school uniform colour which identified my parents religion (this did happen). The present, depressing and apocalyptic, was never good enough.
Given three score and tend years and an expectation that I will die around 2050 is sobering. I haven’t much time left to “make a dent in the universe”. To enact some real changes. With modern medical science, however, I might expect to live to 100 years old. Or even more. That means that my legacy doesn’t begin in 2050 but it might stretch to 2100. My legacy becomes that of a 22nd Century Society.
My vision aligns with what I want “Our Wee Country” to be in the year 2101. I can afford this length of vision because I’m not an elected official worried about whether my constituency will vote me back in in three years. I can afford this because I am convinced that I might see 2101.