As it happens, my brother Charles, a development economist, has done work in the same area. After some discussion, we decided we should write a joint paper taking a hard look at the case for superfast, and in particular its purported societal benefits. He focussed on the economics (since he understands them) and I focussed on the applications and technical side. Working on this paper made me think that even if the emperor did in fact have some clothes, he certainly didn't wear them very often. Time and again, advocates for subsidising superfast to the home made one of three errors, basing their case on applications that:
- Could run on superfast, but equally could run on more basic broadband
- Had little societal benefit, and therefore did not seem to justify government intervention
- Did not require connectivity to home, but rather to businesses
Charles' and my paper was published in November 2010 (with an academic version in the journal info in 2011). It attracted a fair bit of attention, not least in Australia where feelings run high on broadband policy. Some people thought the paper was full of good sense, others thought we were idiots. (Our reply to the latter is here, on p6).
Since then I've continued write and present on the topic. Fibre-caution remains a minority view (at least in public - it's interesting what people in pro-fibre organisations sometimes say behind closed doors), but I'm sticking to it for the time being, until the evidence suggests otherwise.