Broadband – flavour of the month

Broadband – flavour of the month

It may have been the holiday season, but broadband was rarely off the news cycle in one form or another, so here’s a round-up of some of the most interesting stories from the Christmas period.

Most interestingly, David Cameron yesterday committed the Conservatives to fibre optic ‘high speed broadband’ for the majority of the population within five years, and, ‘to as near as possible, universal coverage within ten years’. A bold promise, although we are still waiting to see the detail of this policy. This followed Gordon Brown suggesting in an Observer interview that high-speed broadband could play a similar role to investment in infrastructure during previous recessions. Prior to this, also in the Observer, Professor Christopher Bishop, chief scientist at Microsoft Research Cambridge had suggested that the government could ‘do no better than rewire the nation with fibre optics’ if it was looking for an infrastructure project to stimulate the economy.

At the same time, we were given an indication of what could be included in Stephen Carter’s Digital Britain report. In an article in The Times, a universal broadband service of 2Mbps was suggested, alongside a comprehensive reform of the existing universal service obligations. Carter’s interim report is due to be published this month, with the full report later this year.

Gordon Brown wasn’t the only global leader to reference broadband over Christmas. President-elect Barack Obama spoke of his plan to provide a stimulus to the US digital economy, including improving broadband and increasing take-up. He described the US performance on broadband as ‘unacceptable’.

Staying in the States, the Recording Industry Association of America has decided to abandon its strategy of suing individual downloaders of copyright material. Instead it will adopt a more constructive approach, working with ISPs to identify those who upload copyright material in a move similar to the approach being taken in the UK.

Coming back to the UK, Culture Secretary Andy Burnham made headlines with an interview in the Telegraph in which he suggested that cinema-style age ratings could be applied to the Internet, and said he wanted to work with Obama’s administration to develop international deceny rules for English-language websites. This has caused an interesting debate to occur, with many comment boards filling up in response, and the majority not in favour.

Finally, fulfilling one of the recommendations of the Caio Review, the Valuation Office Agency set out how it will rate fibre in next generation broadband deployments. This is a timely clarification by the VOA, and although containing few surprises, helps to remove some of the uncertainty facing potential investors in NGA.

Peter Shearman, Policy Manager, BSG

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