Although the UK was a late starter in broadband, new users are now joining at a rate of 20,000 a month and the country is on target to have a million users by the end of the year.
Speaking in his keynote address at the Networks Telecom show at the NEC Birmingham on Tuesday, Keith Todd, chairman of the Broadband Stakeholders Group, said it is now essential that this momentum is maintained and that Britain joins the leadership group of broadband nations.
To achieve this, said Todd, stakeholders must be ready to make the social and economic case for broadband. In this debate Todd sees a key role for government but said government intervention is only desirable where market forces cannot themselves provide a service, or if the "timeframe (for rollout) doesn't match the political agenda".
One area in which Todd said government intervetion is particularly unwelcome is in extending the scope of TV regulation to embrace broadband. "OFCOM will be about broadband but what we do not need is a regulated Internet," he said.
In an exclusive interview with ZDNet on Monday the E-commerce minister Stephen Timms restated the government position that public funds would not be used to subsidise broadband in rural areas. In his keynote on Tuesday Keith Todd called for a detailed UK map of availability to be made available so that customers could easily find broadband offerings in their area. Last year ZDNet was forced to withdraw its broadband map due to a lack of cooperation from BT in providing information about ADSL-enabled exchanges.
Todd urged broadband stakeholders to remain technology neutral, adding that he believed 3G and wireless had a massive role to play both in the UK and abroad. "There is a plethora of technologies but each has a role to play", he said.
As broadband bandwidth increases and the number of subscribers rises into the millions, the market will demand ever-increasing richness of content and innovative solutions to real business problems, noted Todd.
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