Digital Britain: Broadband in every home by 2012

Summary:Lord Carter's Digital Britain interim report confirms plans for universal broadband access, but stays quiet on whether the public sector will help push out next-gen service

The government has revealed plans to create a universal service commitment for broadband that would see every last one of the UK's broadband 'notspots' filled in.

However, it has not yet made a decision about whether it has a role to play in delivering 100 percent coverage of next-generation broadband.

The Digital Britain interim report from minister for communications, technology and broadcasting Lord Carter, published today, calls for every home in the country to be broadband-enabled by 2012.

According to the EU, four percent of homes in rural areas of the UK are not within reach of broadband access.

However, only 56 percent of UK homes had a broadband connection last year, figures from the Office for National Statistics show.

Under the plans set out by Lord Carter, all Britons would be guaranteed a connection speed of up to 2Mbps "delivered by a mixture of fixed and mobile, wired and wireless means".

The call for more widespread broadband has already received some industry backing.

Strategy and markets development partner for Ofcom, Peter Phillips, told a conference last week: "It's even more important [than a next-generation rollout] to ensure that all UK residents have access to high-speed broadband."

Chief executive of the Broadband Stakeholder Group, Anthony Walker, also believes the question of availability must be dealt with.

"Where possible it is now time to address those 'notspots' in terms of availability and I think that's really on the basis that broadband is increasingly being seen as a basic utility for households, both in terms of the benefits of connectivity and also things like access to services such as BBC iPlayer and others," he told ZDNet UK's sister site, silicon.com, recently.

The report also details the government's intention to tackle 'broadband refuseniks' — those people who can get fat pipe access but for whatever reason choose not to — by encouraging the development of "public service champions of universal take-up".

On the issue of next-generation broadband, however, Lord Carter is far more circumspect, deferring a decision on whether the public sector has a role to play in helping push out next-gen coverage.

"We will establish a government-led strategy group to assess the necessary demandside, supplyside and regulatory measures to underpin existing market-led investment plans, and to remove barriers to the timely rollout, beyond those declared plans, to maximise market-led coverage of next-generation broadband," the report said.

"We will, by the time of the final Digital Britain report, have considered the value-for-money case for whether public incentives have a part to play in enabling further next-generation broadband deployment, beyond current market-led initiatives."

Speaking on Thursday, Lord Carter added there is no doubt the market would be able to fund the lion's share — between 60 and 65 percent — of next-generation deployments…

Topics: Government : UK, Broadband, Networking

About

Jo Best has been covering IT for the best part of a decade for publications including silicon.com, Guardian Government Computing and ZDNet in both London and Sydney.

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