Consultations

A busy month for next generation broadband

September has been a busy month in the world of next generation broadband. Government reviews, UK and EU regulatory consultations, not to mention our report on the cost of fibre-based next generation broadband, have certainly moved the debate on in the UK.

The month started with the BSG publishing its report ‘The costs of deploying fibre-based next generation broadband‘. This report used geographic and cost data specific to the UK, allowing us to model the cost of deployment across a variety of geotypes. The long and the short of this is that the report suggests that fibre to the cabinet will cost up to £5.1bn, and fibre to the home up to £28.8bn.

The total costs are interesting, but the purpose of the report was to breakdown the various cost components, to examine where the real costs lie. Unsurprisingly, this was in the civil infrastructure elements of the network – 42% of total costs for FTTC, and up to 80% of total costs for FTTH. Any steps that could be taken to reduce these costs would obviously help reduce this barrier to investment, and the report modelled how various actions, such as if higher duct re-use was possible, would impact the overall costs.

The report also clearly set out that there is a definite difference in the cost of deployment between urban, rural and remote areas of the UK. For fibre to the cabinet, for example, the cheapest 58% of households would cost £1.9bn to deploy to; the next 26% would cost £1.4bn, and the most expensive 16% would cost a further £1.8bn. Clearly, deploying beyond the first 60% of UK households will be a more challenging case for investors to make, which has a number of implications for government and the regulator.

This was closely followed by the launch of the final report of the Caio Review – ‘The Next Phase of Broadband UK: Action now for long term competitiveness‘. The Review suggested that, while we shouldn’t be panicking about a lack of NGA in the UK, the government could take actions to reduce the barriers to investment, and set out the need for leadership from the government and the regulator. A range of initiatives were recommended, including providing certainty for investors and reducing the costs of deployment, while increasing the competitive pressure on copper-based services, and benchmarking our performance against other countries while considering the ‘batstop’ remedies should the market fail to deliver NGA.

We welcomed these recommendations at the time, and look forward to hearing the government’s response to the Review. Certainly, our reports over the last 18 months have supported the conclusions and recommendations of the Review.

What followed was then followed by a flurry of regulatory activity. First, the European Commission set out its long-awaited draft Recommendation on the regulation of NGA. The Recommendation sets out how the Commission would like regulation to support investment and competition in next generation broadband, and makes for interesting reading for Ofcom and the operators, who will no doubt be submitting their views to the Commission before the 14 November deadline.

This was swiftly followed by Ofcom themselves publishing their latest consultation on the regulatory environment for NGA, ‘Delivering superfast broadband in the UK‘. The consultation discusses a range of issues and, although differing in depth of detail across the issues, certainly moves the debate on from its previous consultation last September. Positioning itself as a ‘framework for action’, the regulator will further progress these issues through a range of activities with stakeholders.

And, just to add to the fun, the Commission has also now begun its second periodic review of the Universal Service Directive, as well as launching an EU-wide broadband performance index.

Quite a lot to absorb for those of us who spend their days working on next generation broadband. So where has it left us? Well, the Caio Review has set out a number of options for government if it is serious about trying to reduce the costs of deployment. The government response will be interesting, and whether they are actually able to implement some of the suggested changes (such as to the way fibre is treated in the rating system) is up for debate. Caio’s recommendation that government and the regulator take a strong lead on NGA is one that we support, and are keen to see.

Our report has added further to the evidence base for policy making that we are committed to creating, to ensure appropriate policy is developed. It adds numbers to views that were likely already held, but also raises interesting questions, and the granularity of our figures should be of real use to those interested in local or regional broadband projects.

The Commission’s Recommendation, and Ofcom’s consultation, take us closer towards regulatory certainty than we were before, although a number of questions remain unanswered and this is unlikely to be the end of Ofcom’s process for creating the right regulatory framework. Certainly there could be a sense that every time you delve deeper into an issue, the list of questions a regulator needs to answer gets longer.

One issue worth noting is the change of view towards public sector projects. Sympathies certainly appear to have shifted within Ofcom, and possibly within BERR given the Review’s recommendations, since the DTI/Ofcom Best Practice Guide for Public Broadband Schemes was put out in 2007, and this is a welcome development.

This is one of many issues raised this month, however, and stakeholders will be watching with interest to see how these are played out in the coming months.

Ofcom publishes latest consultation on superfast broadband

The BSG welcomes the publication today of Ofcom’s consultation on delivering super-fast broadband in the UK.

“The regulatory framework is key to next generation broadband???, said Antony Walker, CEO of the BSG. “The consultation asks some important questions and we will be working closely with stakeholders to respond in detail.???

The deadline for comments to this public consultation is 02 December 2008.

Ofcom Consultation – “Delivering super-fast broadband in the UK”

Ofcom Consultation Executive Summary

European Commission publishes its draft Recommendation on next generation broadband

The European Commission today published its draft Recommendation on national regulatory approaches to next generation broadband.

The Recommendation lays out the Commission’s over-arching regulatory principles, as well as going in to more detail on the various passive and active rememdies that the Commission favours, and other issues such as the rate of return for investments in next generation broadband.

The closing date for responses to this public consultation is 14 November, after which the Commission will finalise the Recommendation in light of the comments received before adopting it in 2009.

EC NGA draft Recommendation

EC NGA draft Recommendation Explanatory Note

BSG response to EC consultation on cross-media rating, age verification, social networking sites

The BSG today responded to the European Commission’s consultation on cross-media rating, age verification and classification, and social networking sites.

The purpose of the public consultation is to gather the knowledge and views of all relevant stakeholders, such as public bodies, child safety and consumer organisations and industry on these issues.

The gathered information will be fed into this year’s Safer Intermet Forum 2008 which will be dedicated to the above mentioned topics. This is taking place on the 25 and 26 September in Luxembourg and the BSG will be speaking at this event.

BSG response to EC consultation on cross-media rating, age verification, social networking sites

BERR launches consultation on illegal file-sharing

BERR today launched a consultation on approaches for tackling illegal file-sharing.

The consultation is seeking views on the proposed co-regulatory approach put forward by BERR for working with industry and the regulator to address the issue of illegal peer-to-peer file sharing.

Alongside the consultation, a memorandum of understanding has been signed by the major ISPs and representatives of the content industry that sets out an objective to achieve ‘a significant reduction in the incidence of copyright infringement as a result of peer to peer file-sharing’ within the next two to three years.

This will begin with a three month trial where ISPs will notify 1,000 subscribers per week, who have been identified as being engaged in illegal file sharing, that their account is being used for illegal activity. The results from this trial will be assessed by the signatories before deciding on further action.

These developments come five months on from the government’s announcement, when it launched the ‘Creative Britain’ strategy paper, that it would consult in 2008 on legislation requiring rights holders and ISPs to work together to address illegal file-sharing.

At that time, government set a deadline of Spring 2009 for this issue to be addressed before legislation would be introduced, and today’s announcement is a significant step to finding a solution agreeable to ISPs, the content industries and government within that timescale.

BERR consultation on illicit P2P file-sharing

BSG response to EC consultation on cross-media rating, age verification, social networking sites

The BSG today responded to the European Commission’s consultation on cross-media rating, age verification and classification, and social networking sites.

The purpose of the public consultation is to gather the knowledge and views of all relevant stakeholders, such as public bodies, child safety and consumer organisations and industry on these issues.

The gathered information will be fed into this year’ Safer Intermet Forum 2008 which will be dedicated to the above mentioned topics. This is taking place on the 25 and 26 September in Luxembourg and the BSG will be speaking at this event.

View the BSG’s response