BBC may help fund UK fibre rollout

Communications minister Lord Carter has suggested the BBC could help the rollout of super-fast broadband networks to areas of the country not served by BT and Virgin Media fibre rollouts

The BBC could help the rollout of super-fast broadband access under the government's Digital Britain plan.

The interim Digital Britain report, published earlier this month, paves the way for 2Mbps broadband for all UK households and considers the question of how to finance the rollout of next-generation fibre networks.

Minister for communications, technology and broadcasting Lord Carter, who is overseeing the report, on Tuesday suggested the BBC could have a part to play in funding the rollout of super-fast broadband networks to areas of the country not served by planned BT and Virgin Media fibre rollouts.

"The public-policy question is: what about the other half of the country [outside BT and Virgin Media fibre areas]? At this stage I don't think we can give you an answer to who funds it. There are multiple answers," he told the House of Commons Business and Enterprise Committee. "We will do a comparative analysis, we will see what makes most sense and then we will look at how, if a case is made, how we fund that. "

He added: "Is there a role for the BBC? Possibly."

According to the minister, the increase in online media consumption could open the door to BBC involvement.

"More and more people are getting their media experience from the internet and most predictions are that internet use is doubling every two years. In terms of what people are getting off the internet, even at the lowest levels of predictions, they say 20 percent of media consumption will be internet-based rather than any other form of distribution," Lord Carter said, adding: "If that's the case, would you not see the nation's state-funded content provider as having a role? It would seem to me you would."

It is not the first time Lord Carter has suggested the BBC could be involved in the future of broadband. The Digital Britain interim report recommends that the BBC gets involved in marketing, cross-promoting and providing digital content, in order to encourage fat-pipe refuseniks to get connected.

According to the report, the BBC's video-on-demand service, iPlayer, is a good example of a service that will promote broadband adoption.

According to a Home Office spokeswoman, the BBC could potentially have a part to play in either the UK's move to universal broadband or the availability of next-generation broadband networks.

"It's a possibility but I don't think [Lord Carter] is saying we've made a decision on that," she said.


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