Tuesday 27 November 2007


Minister leads push for faster broadband

· Britain can't afford to lag behind, Timms warns
· Summit to discuss who pays £7bn fibre-optic bill

So, we might finally be reaching the stage where we need fibre-to-the-home (FTTH). Way back, twenty years? there was much discussion about the desirability of replacing, or supplementing, the twisted-pair copper cable that takes telephony into the home by optical fibre. But a combination of technology and politics/economics have put off the time when it can or needs to be done. Technological advances have enabled undreamed-of data rates to be carried by the old copper, while the break-up of the monopoly of BT made it more difficult to fund the installation of fibre everywhere. So what we've seen instead is fibre pretty much everywhere else, but not to the home. But now, so it is argued, the inexorable rise in demand for getting bits into the home is finally proving just too much for the poor old copper.

However, thinking about the information, why do we need all these bits? Certainly at one level it is very clear. If you want to bring in HD TV over your internet connection, you certainly do need the bit rate (at the moment anyway). But what I'm thinking is that the human brain, so I understand, can only process something of the order of a few bits, or maybe a few tens of bits, per second. So my house with four residents should be well-covered by a couple of hundred bits per second maximum!

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