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National Audit Office release report on the rural broadband programme

This morning, the National Audit Office released their anticipated report on the rural broadband programme. It is available here.

The report set out the following recommendations:

  • DCMS should review all the reasons for the delay in roll-out to date and guard against further slippage
  • DCMS should seek greater assurance that BT’s bid prices are reasonable and do not contain excessive contingency
  • DCMS should implement the procedures it is developing to thoroughly monitor in-life contract costs, placing additional emphasis on ensuring staff expertise
  • DCMS should consider evidence on take-up rates outside of the programme and discuss with BT whether its modelling assumptions are still valid

NAO head Amyas Morse is quoted as saying “the rural broadband project is moving forward late and without the benefit of strong competition to protect public value. For this we will have to rely on the Department’s active use of the controls it has negotiated and strong supervision by Ofcom.”

The Public Accounts Committee, lead by Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, is expected to hold a session on this issue later this month. They have issued a press release here.

CEO's monthly update – A pre-summer policy spree

 

Pamela Learmonth

A busy month in the broadband policy landscape, with the Treasury’s Spending Round and Infrastructure update providing a revised signal of intent on the Government’s headline broadband delivery targets. By upping fixed line broadband targets to 95% of the population by 2017, the Government have found a new headline target which accommodates for recent delays to roll-out and pleasing those who want wider rollout of superfast fixed connectivity. Chief Secretary Danny Alexander MP also indicated a new vision for 99% superfast connectivity including mobile solutions, and there was also mention of a revised scope for BDUK based on the recent recommendations of Olympic stalwart Lord Deighton. The Information Economy Strategy signposted a new scheme on SMEs and digital skills provision, which we can expect the Deputy Prime Minister to outline fully later in the year. (more…)

Investing in Britain’s Broadband Future – Government provides further detail on a post-2015 vision

Whilst yesterday’s Spending Round had scant mention of broadband, this morning’s Investing in Britain’s Future publication on Infrastructure from the Treasury shed further light on the Government’s vision for broadband post-2015.

In his speech to parliament, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said he wanted UK communities to be better connected.  This was reflected in £250m funds for fixed superfast broadband, targeted to cover 95% of the population by 2017 (building on the Government’s current target of 90% by 2015). This £250m comes as part of the £300m that had been previously been allocated for broadband from the TV licence fee in the period 2015-2017 (with the remaining £50m remaining uncommitted).

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DCMS launches consultation on Connection Vouchers

Yesterday the Department for Culture, Media and Sport launched its much anticipated consultation on Connection Vouchers, one part of the government’s high profile Super Connected Cities programme (also referred to as the Urban Broadband Fund). It is available for download here.

Minister Ed Vaizey has described the Connection Voucher initiative’s aim to “stimulate the market to improve digital connectivity in participating cities, in particular for the benefit of SMEs”. (more…)

BSG issue response to DCMS and DCLG consultation on mobile connectivity

Today the Broadband Stakeholder Group submitted its response to proposals aimed at boosting the roll-out of mobile and mobile broadband, issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

The BSG supports the main tenants and objectives of the proposals but recommends that the government may wish to go further on:

  • Ensuring infrastructure upgrades in non-protected areas can occur under permitted development, without the need for prior approval, to support an efficient 4G roll-out process
  • Further ease restrictions in protected areas to support improved connectivity in rural and hard to reach areas

The response also offers some additional proposals focused on how to support anticipated new infrastructure in support of mobile connectivity, in addition to the proposals to support upgrade of existing infrastructure.

Read the full response to the consultation here.

BSG publishes details of voluntary process underpinning Open Internet code

In July 2012 the BSG published, on behalf of signatory ISPs, the Open Internet code of practice. That code set out a commitment by signatory ISPs not to deploy traffic management in a manner that targets and degrades the content or application(s) of specific providers.

The code also committed to setting up a voluntary process in support of that commitment and the code of practice has been updated to contain details of that process. (more…)

Unanswered questions remain on digital scope of Draft Consumer Rights Bill

The Draft Consumer Rights Bill has now been published, following its announcement in the 2013 Queen’s Speech last month. This will be of particular interest to the broadband community in light of its aim to update consumer protection to keep up with technological developments, particularly in regard to digital purchases.

The Bill has been touted by BIS minister Jo Swinson as “enhancing consumer rights and making them easier to understand, which will boost the economy by £4 billion over the next decade”, and will now cover the repair or replacement of faulty digital content such as film and music downloads, online games and e-books. (more…)

BitTorrent use drops as innovations in Video-on-Demand re-shape traffic stats

Consultants Sandvine published a report last month observing an emerging pattern that many suspect will become the norm in consumer traffic habits. That is that the use of BitTorrent – the practice of peer-to-peer file sharing, and the protocol often associated with the illegal download of copyrighted material – is waning. In the words of the authors, “We believe as more over-the-top Real-Time Entertainment (RTE) sources are made available to subscribers in the future, the rate of decline in share will begin to accelerate.”

As the report highlights, Netflix’s market leadership in RTE continues to dominate the American market, accounting for almost a third of peak downstream traffic on fixed networks, with share on mobile doubling in the last year. Elsewhere, YouTube is still the largest single source of RTE traffic on both fixed and mobile – yes, YouTube is still the leading source of Internet traffic in the entire world.

The report considers global trends, but I have picked out a number of highlights relevant for the European market:

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CEO’s monthly update – the rolling traffic lights of broadband policy

Pamela LearmonthFirst up, traffic management – or more specifically net neutrality and the open internet – are firmly back on the political agenda. Commissioner Neelie Kroes outlined her ‘No Disconnect’ policy in a major speech this week. Watch this space for updates from the UK being coordinated by the BSG over the coming months, and take a look at our work to date here.

The Major Projects Authority – the unit based in the Cabinet Office tasked with evaluating the progress of major government programmes – rated the four major broadband initiatives running out DCMS as operating with either ‘Amber’ or ‘Amber/Red’ status – read BSG’s blog on the report here. (more…)

DCMS Broadband initiatives feature in Major Projects Authority annual report

Last week saw the publication of the Major Projects Authority annual report, the result of the collaboration between the Cabinet Office, HM Treasury and departments aiming to significantly improving the delivery success rate of major projects across central government through monitoring and the opening up of public data.

Details on the major public broadband initiatives within the Department for Culture, Media and Sport were published as part of this report, and we’ve pulled out some highlights for our readers: (more…)

The curious and ongoing case of national fibre strategies: BSG review recent Arthur D Little report

A recent paper from Arthur D Little has aimed to shed further light on the global conundrum that, despite a number of great macro-economic justifications, private industry has struggled to make the case for national fibre strategies. National Fibre Strategies: National economic imperative or just another private industry task?, presents five models for national fibre strategies, looking at the relationships between very fast speeds, productivity and innovation. The report does not claim to have cast light on causal relationships, but nevertheless its claim that increasing home speed broadband by 1Mbps increases household income by an average of $100 per year is a powerful one. (more…)

Queen's Speech 2013 – broadband business as usual

Today’s Queen’s Speech was, as expected, not full of surprises – both in a general sense and in relation to broadband and technology.

In the context of an overall political message to focus govermment activity in support of a strong, growing and competitive economy whilst building a fair society to reward people who work hard, the major legislative planks formed around immigration, pensions, social care and education.

No name-check to broadband in the Queen’s Speech, refecting the business as usual approach the government has taken for some time in respect of the ongoing programmes in support of broadband rollout.  No mention either to the Communications Bill where we are expecting a White Paper before the summer recess.

Three announcements are however of interest to those in the sector: (more…)