Non-BSG reports

BSG comments on Caio Review

The Caio Report on Next Generation Broadband is a key step towards UK consumers getting superfast broadband, according to the Broadband Stakeholder Group, the government’s advisory body on broadband.

Kip Meek, Chairman of the Broadband Stakeholder Group, says, “Importantly, this report states that although there is no government money on the table, there is a key leadership role for both government and Ofcom, and that everyone involved in the provision of broadband must work more closely together if we are to address the challenges of deployment of next generation, super-fast, broadband in the UK.???

BSG believes that the report is important for three reasons:

  • Firstly it is saying that government needs to come off the fence and recognise that next generation broadband will be of fundamental importance to the UK economy

BSG agrees and believes that government and Ofcom together must show leadership in creating the right environment for investment to take place.

  • Secondly, it is saying that we shouldn’t expect a single entity to deploy a single fibre network universally across the UK. Instead we are likely to see different networks, being deployed in different areas, by different organisations using a mix of fibre and wireless technologies.

This is borne out by the BSG’s recent cost modelling work which concluded that universal Fibre to the Home (FTTH) would cost £28.8bn

  • Thirdly while it rejects the need for blanket subsidies, it is saying that local innovative projects, involving the public and private sector and local communities should be encouraged and supported both as a stimulus to competition and as a way of extending coverage into more rural areas.

BSG research earlier this year demonstrated that if built on international best practice, such projects can be both efficient and effective. But coordination is required at national level.

The BSG is committed to assisting government and the regulator in implementing the recommendations from the Caio Review.

Caio Review final report

BSG response to Caio Review – full press release

Caio Reveiw – Full BERR press release

Through the looking glass? What lies within Ofcom’s Comms Market Report?

Last week saw the publication of what has become a bit of a bible in the TMT sector – Ofcom’s Communications Market Report for 2008.

Perhaps some of you who are more diligent than me and have worked through the 2inch thick report by now, may have more detailed views, which I would certainly be interested in hearing.

However, even the headline themes and stats make for initial interesting reading.

Working for the Broadband Stakeholder Group, it is no surprise that my attention immediately went to observations about the development of the broadband market.

There are no great surprises in here. However, the findings set out by Ofcom do confirm some of the trends various pundits have observed over the last 12 months or so.

Firstly, the number of consumers buying bundles of three of more services is on the rise. Whilst the number of households taking a bundled communications service in 2007 remained the same as the 2006 figure – 4 in 10, the nature of these bundles has changed.

Triple-play bundles now account for 32% of bundles taken in 2007. This increase perhaps reflects both the efforts providers such as Virgin Media and BSkyB to market these packages, and the value consumers now put on certain services. Have we reached the stage where multichannel on-demand TV is now seen as a core service people will pay for, alongside their phone and broadband?

Mobile broadband is another key development identified in the Ofcom study. Much has been said about the success of the dongle in recent months, and here are some stats to back up that assumption. Ofcom’s research shows that between February and June this year, monthly sales of these devices rose from 69,000 to 133,000 a month. Furthermore, 1.5 million people state that they use them at home as well as outside, giving credence to the perception that mobile broadband is beginning to put a real competitive pressure on fixed-line providers.

This trend is particularly important in the context of the UK’s move to next generation broadband (discussed briefly at page 303). Mobile broadband could prove to be popular as we move to faster, fixed-line broadband speeds. However, the role that it could play in a next generation environment is harder to predict.

We, like many others, look forward to Ofcom’s regulatory statement on NGA, for clarity on the regulatory framework that will underpin and support this important transition.

Pamela Learmonth, Policy Manager, BSG

The Byron Review: What now for regulation of Web 2.0?

“If our children were leaving the house, or going to a swimming pool or going to play in the street, we would take all the care possible about their safety – is there proper policing, is there proper safety? When a child goes on to the computer and on to the internet or on to a video game we should be thinking in the same way.”

This was the response from the Prime Minister to the review published last week by psychologist Tanya Byron, setting out recommendations to ensure that children and young people are protected from inappropriate and harmful material on the internet and in video games.

The publication of this landmark review reflects a growing policy emphasis on how web 2.0 should be effectively regulated.

Whilst no one would disagree with the importance of ensuring child protection on the web and on video games, there is a vocal concern from industry that regulation should not inhibit innovation. The new media industry is one of the UK’s most vibrant and is constantly developing new services – the principal users of which are, in many cases, children and young people.

Byron’s report is a considered and ambitious response to this important issue. Whilst many of last week’s headlines focused on her recommendation to extend the range of age classification for video games, a closer read of the 200+ page report (for those of you with the stamina) also reveals an important proposal on how regulation of web 2.0 should be driven forward.

Her solution to this quandary is the establishment of a UK Council on Child Internet Safety to develop a child internet safety strategy, that will cover both illegal and legal (though potentially harmful or inappropriate) activity.

Built on the structure of the existing Home Secretary’s Task Force on Child Protection on the Internet, the Council will be co-chaired by the Home Office and the Department for Children, Schools and Families, involve other relevant government departments and be staffed by a cross-departmental secretariat. It will report directly to the Prime Minister.

The Council will also be supported by an expert advisory group and research sub-group and involve industry through working groups to deliver specific initiatives such as codes of practice.

Byron also strongly recommends that mechanisms should be established by the Council to effectively involve parents, children and young people.

At first glance, this seems like an eminently sensible solution. It draws the relevant stakeholders together and an over-arching strategy would arguably reduce confusion about the array of policy developments individual departments are currently pursuing in this area.

However, it is an ambitious task, and Byron’s recommended deadline of Spring 2009 for both the establishment of the Council and publication of the strategy is a challenging timescale.

It remains unclear at present who will drive forward the development of the strategy, and what regulatory issues it will cover. Elsewhere in her report, Byron throws down a gauntlet to industry to develop codes of practice on areas such as user generated content, improving access to parental control software and safe search features, and better regulation of online advertising.

This builds on the vast array of work the industry has already taken to set common standards on issues that are important to their consumer. One example of which is the Good Practice Principles on Audiovisual Content, which were facilitated by the Broadband Stakeholder group (www.audiovisualcontent.org).

However, looking forward, could further regulatory proposals emerge under the strategy as a whole? Would this regulation be developed under a self or co regulatory model? And who will police and enforce these standards?

It has to be recognised that Byron has done an admiral job in pulling a wide array of issues together in her review. When it comes down to a more detailed look at how child internet safety will be regulated, however, there is still a very long road to travel.

By Pamela Learmonth, Policy Manager, BSG