Connected Research

Union policy research in the 21st century

Broadband UK (coming sometime, maybe)

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Stephen Timms has announced that Broadband UK – the delivery authority known in the Digital Britain White Paper as the Network Design and Procurement Group (then Company) – has been launched. This was due to be launched in October last year, then ‘in the New Year’, so its appearance now is overdue. Broadband UK will oversee projects submitted for funding under the Next Generation Fund, i.e. from the 50p/month landline duty, and has also been given the task of driving through the commitment to a 2Mbps broadband universal service commitment by 2012.

Further work does need to be done to establish the presence of Broadband UK, as thinkbroadband has identified.

The launch of Broadband UK has been accompanied by the publication of a specific research report written by Analysys Mason. The purpose of this has been to identify those communities most at risk of being left behind in the roll-out of next generation access technology. The report highlights that the percentage of the population with high-speed broadband will be twenty percentage points higher by 2017 than if left to the market alone – perhaps, in the context, a somewhat unsurprising result although credible evidence of the size of potential market failure is always worth having, in this area as much as any other.

At the same time, the launch is a welcome sign of faith in the Digital Britain project, as currently constituted, as much as the news reported today in The Guardian that ‘senior media industry figures’ believe that the Digital Economy Bill will pass into legislation prior to the ‘wash-up’ period before a general election (when Bills (or element of Bills) that do not have cross-party support fall by the wayside). The Connect Sector of Prospect will be welcoming the new statutory duty on Ofcom to promote investment, alongside the existing duty to promote competition.

In the meantime, Rory Cellan-Jones’s blog posting on the BBC today focuses again on broadband speeds: this is largely a bit of a recycling of old themes, to be honest: it comes as no great surprise that homes are only getting half the advertised speeds from current generation broadband, and the reasons why are pretty familiar. Changing that to achieve higher speeds requires investment; investment requires regulatory certainty in those areas where it can (perhaps) be financed competitively; and, where it can’t, it needs the assistance of direct financial intervention on the basis of what we used fondly to call a mixed economy. Not rocket science there, Rory – and something is being done about all these elements.

Getting the job finished is, of course, a different proposition.


Written by Calvin

05/03/2010 at 6:00 pm

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