Virgin Media Benefits from U.K. Broadband Cluelessness

| About: Virgin Media (VMED)

It's front page news in the Financial Times today. Ed Richards of OFCOM droned on about it somniferously on Radio Four this morning, while interviewer Sarah Montague sounded very irritated with him. OFCOM's latest update on broadband speeds is going to be picked apart by the media ad nauseum, and I couldn't be happier about it.

Repetition is a good thing where consumer education is concerned. For years I've been hoping that Clive Sixpack would take a look at the parlous state of UK broadband versus its neighbors and get annoyed, because annoyance is frequently followed in this country by quiet muttering, and in some cases by a demand for action, or even a good punch-up. Hopefully the Daily Mail will take hold of the story and run with it, without attributing the problem to illegal immigrants, as it seems to do with most issues.
I'm joking here, but my point is serious - this is a golden opportunity to make broadband a genuine populist issue to demand change. One of my colleagues came up with the idea for a campaign to encourage subscribers receiving only 40% of their nominal line rate to submit only 40% of their nominal tariff every month, which I quite like.
I don't think there's anything here that people who follow the industry haven't at least suspected, if not known outright, and the spectrum of operator suckiness is almost precisely what I expected when the previous SamKnows report was issued. Still, it's nice to see the worst offenders named and shamed publicly, though I suspect their customers are well aware of their failings already.
The big winner here is Virgin Media (NASDAQ:VMED) - clearly acknowledged as superior. The BBC Radio Four news story intro this morning even highlighted that the study found "broadband by cable is better than by phone line," which is the sort of PR you can't typically buy, let alone get for free. I suppose Lord Carter must also be feeling pretty good. If the average speed delivered in the UK is 4.1Mbps, then Digital Britain's "vision" of 2Mbps for all is virtually in the bag, three full years ahead of schedule. Job done, time to move on!
It's a sad irony that, just as we reach a point where the flames of public discontent can be fanned effectively, the government will have the luxury of shrugging and pointing to empty coffers, while just up the road, construction continues on an Ozymandian project, the cost of which equates roughly to one-third the total bill for FTTH to every home in the country. Never mind, we're building a legacy here, just ask the Athenians. And when things go wrong with the subprime self-cert mortgage which is our future, we can pile into the broadband Trabant we've bought and seek opportunity elsewhere, at 4Mbps per second.