European Commission

BSG CEO addresses European eInclusion Ministerial Conference

BSG CEO Antony Walker was among the speakers at the eInclusion Ministerial Conference, held in Vienna.

Discussing ‘Future broadband challenges: the long term view’, Walker set out the immediate challenges he saw, and the key issues that need to be addressed in the long term.

In the near term, Walker highlighted that the outlook for investment in next generation broadband was very different across the various European markets, and the current economic climate made investment more challenging. Therefore, it was even more important that public and regulatory policy makers use the various levers at their disposal to encourage market-led deployment.

The key long-term challenge is likely to be the rise of a new digital divide, as next generation broadband will almost certainly not be deployed ubiquitously within markets. Thinking is therefore required now, to determine how each nation plans to address this challenge, when the time comes.

Antony Walker, ‘Future broadband challenges’ – speech in full

BSG responds to EC NGA consultation

The BSG has submitted its response to the EC consultation on its draft Recommendation on regulated access to NGA networks.

The BSG welcomes the general principles set out by the Commission for guiding NRAs when regulating for next generation access, but expresses concern at the level of detail and prescription included in the Recommendation currently.

The BSG believes that the Commission’s objective should be the harmonisation of outcomes, and that this is best achieved by giving national regulatory authorities the responsibility to implement regulatory principles in the most appropriate way for local market conditions, rather than prescribing specific regulatory remedies.

BSG response to EC NGA consultation

EC NGA consultation document

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.

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

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