20 ways gigabit-speed internet access might change our lives by 2025

by Stuart Dredge in The Guardian



UK Labour Party Activists Seek 1Gbps Nationwide Home Broadband by 2020

ISPreview reports on efforts to commit the next Labour Government to rollout universal 1000Mbps internet to homes and 10Gbps to business hubs



Why we need Fibre to the Premises

Thanks to Lindsey Annison for pointing to this article about some of the work being done to test what Google Fiber’s 1000Mbps internet connectivity might be used for in the USA.

Health applications are definitely one of those areas in which Hyperfast connectivity will come into its own. We are all living longer, and, as we do, society cannot cope with huge numbers of people living in institutions of one form or another. And, it is obvious that the vast majority of people would prefer to stay in their own homes. When large numbers of people are living at home, being monitored for their vital signs 24 hours a day, we will need much better connectivity than most of what is on offer today.

But a particularly key passage in the article is this:

Gigabit speeds allows video and audio quality so sharp that a psychologist or other professional can detect the subtle emotional giveaway a patient may reveal during a remote interview that all is not well. Slower web connections occasionally freeze or get garbled.

“We want to engage the individual through sort of a virtual embrace,” Fitzpatrick said. “We can connect people to meaningful data and robust tele-consultations.”

Gigabit internet connectivity is one of the elements which will allow our future society to forget about the technology and just communicate with each other at a distance as naturally as we do face-to-face. The idea of a virtual embrace is a brilliant metaphor for what this will mean. And it demonstrates how our ambitions for a world made better by technology are being frustrated by lack of ambition among our politicians and decision-makers.

Many Rivers to Cross

I am not sure there can be anybody in the world now who doesn’t know about B4RN, the community-led initiative which is installing 1000Mbps fibre internet connections in North Lancashire, England, particularly after the world-wide publicity generated by its launch day recently (see some of it here).


The farmers and villagers who make up the volunteer membership of B4RN have toiled through wind, rain and snow (and there has been lots of all three over the past 12 months), to lay the fibre cables which have brought hyperfast connectivity to 2 villages so far. It’s been back-breaking, and sometimes soul-destroying, work, as the trenches often fill with water as soon as they are dug. Nevertheless, they have persevered, making much slower progress, than planned, but people are starting to benefit from their remote communities being connected to the 21st Century.

River Lune bridge at Arkholme

Railway bridge over the river Lune at Arkholme
© Copyright Ian Lane and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0

Now they have hit a major snag. The B4RN area is centred on the Lune Valley. That means there is a river at its heart, and they now need to cross it. On the positive side, there is a clear route across the river, which is right in the path the fibre needs to take to reach the communities on the other side, and that is a railway viaduct (pictured above). The problem is that, Network Rail, which owns the viaduct wants a lot of money and a huge amount of regulation and red tape, for B4RN to run its little cable across to the other side.

Photo by Rory Cellan-Jones

Photo by Rory Cellan-Jones

Now, I think we can all understand that commercial considerations and health and safety regulations have to apply in these kinds of situations, but B4RN is a not-for-profit, community-owned organisation, which is pioneering in a very difficult endeavour. Network Rail describes itself as a ‘not for shareholder dividend’ company, so you would think it might recognise a similar kind of organisation trying to do good for its members. Surely it also ought to be possible for B4RN to come to some mutually beneficial arrangement with Network Rail, in which the latter gets access to B4RN’s hyperfast connectivity for its own purposes and for signalling. We all know about the high cost of cable theft on the railways, which is caused by people stealing copper cables for their scrap value; fibre has no value in this respect.

So, come on Network Rail, surely you can come to an arrangement here. And, if you are reading this and have any influence over Network Rail at all, please do something to help.

Thank you