It seems 10mbps is now the best they're going to get, but it's a hugely missed opportunity
There's been a minor flutter of excitement over the past few hours as The Times has thrown up the suggestion that Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Sajid Javid has welched on a promise to provide classically-defined "super fast" (i.e. 25 mbps) broadband to rural areas.
That's not actually accurate - certainly in terms of bandying the headline "broken pledge" around so confidently. But don't worry, I've not gone soft yet, and I am not about to start defending anyone. I'm still incredibly disappointed the government seems to have now given up on providing anything above the USO ("universal service obligation") of 10Mbps for areas of the UK that desperately need it.
It's just another addition to an increasingly confused, dispiriting and messy situation that's leaving the average broadband consumer completely in the dark as to what's going on.
On the one hand, we had David Cameron promising super fast broadband for all back in November 2015 (with that USO caveat muttered afterwards, in the style of those rapidly delivered ‘This cold relief syrup will probably kill you as well as cure you' messages at the end of US drug adverts). On the other, we have statements like the one we covered from BT yesterday stating this coverage was an "ambition".
And in the middle, we have smug careerists like my good friend Minister of State for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries Ed Vaizey self-congratulating until they're blue in the face while being the first to leap up to batter down dissent the moment queries arise.
But the really insulting takeaway from the Times' coverage is the assertion, apparently appearing in a USO document, that rural customers won't even want internet faster than 10Mbps.
"So we do not believe that an additional broadband roll-out programme at this time is proportionate or would represent value for money," the Times quotes from said document.
There's a rather dreadful suggestion here that countryside folk are so busy using eggs as currency and living in hovels made of sticks that they have literally no need for proper internet. Nobody buys that.
I've probably made it clear of late I'm no fan of BT or its part in the spin cycle I've just mentioned, but even Openreach is providing stories like yesterday's happy news that a microwave-based radio link is providing 80Mbps speeds for a village in Northumberland.
The UK broadband rollout - as Vaizey is so fond of trumpeting whenever he has a captive audience - has already saved money, and not taking the opportunity to use some of that horded cash to keep looking for rural solutions feels distinctly unfair.
I pretty much always sign off these pieces by reiterating that the only way the UK will continue to seriously compete on the global IT scene is for everyone to get involved but you know what? I'm going to do it again:
The only way the UK will continue to seriously compete on the global IT scene is for everyone to get involved.
So, government: please stop treating rural broadband customers like schmucks and try your hardest to give them what they're owed. And stop bleating on about "Northern Powerhouses" and randomly awarding "City of Culture" badges and actually, you know, do something to share the love around this fine country instead of fortifying everything in London. And that counts double for technology.
Cameron said back in November 2015 that broadband should be considered a "utility". Until everyone's getting a fresh, constant and clean flow of data in the UK, it's that overarching promise I'm going to keep considering broken, no matter the finer details of the message.