The Digital Britain Report has received wide spread support from IT-focussed organisations, but many feel that its core recommendation for a minimum speed broadband available to all, don’t go far enough.
The Communications Management Association, which represents major network users, said the way the government promotes in communications services will be vital to the UK’s economic recovery.
Carolyn Kimber, chair of the CMA said, “A near-term target of only “up to” 2 Mbps is disappointing, until you realise that it’s a universal service obligation target to be reached within 30 months, and the UK is the only country to commit to such a concept.”
Kimber welcomed the expanded role of the regulator Ofcom. “We endorse the intention to expand the role of Ofcom in the area of network security and availability.
“For too long the regulator has turned its back on security and survivability issues, claiming they are a matter for law enforcement or the supplier.”
However, she complained that “the mobile sector seems reluctant to collaborate for the common good. This is a unique opportunity – unlikely to come round again in the foreseeable future – for the entire industry to pull together, and we can’t afford to mess it up.”
Digital switchover of public services
John Higgins, director general at Intellect, the UK technology trade body, said the £6 a year levy on fixed lines to fund commercially unviable broadband development “shrinks in comparison to the hundreds of millions of tax payers’ money that other countries are finding for their networks.”
He also praised the report’s commitment to a digital switchover of public services once current broadband reaches the whole population. “Making the internet the first port of call for government services could reduce the costs of government administration, while making services more flexible and accessible,” said Higgins.
The Broadband Stakeholder Group, a leading advisory group on broadband, was equally positive.
“The challenge is to find the intervention sweet spot, not so much as to be heavy handed and not so little as to be ineffective. This intervention could be just enough to incentivise investors,” said Antony Walker, Chief Executive of the Broadband Stakeholder Group.
However, David Thomas, head of communication regulation, at KPMG said, “Residential consumers, SMEs and teleworkers are likely to be disappointed by the lack of ambition for universal broadband speeds of only 2 megabits per second.
“However this low target is not surprising, given the lack of available Government funding due to the current economic environment and the industry view that customers will be unwilling to may much more for broadband.”
Matthew Howett, senior analyst at Ovum, was also muted in his praise for the initiative. He said the commitment to 2Mbps universal access “is still quite significantly below the current average headline speed available in the UK and in this respect a digital divide will continue to exist.”
He also said that the £6 a year levy to make up the Next Generation Fund, appears “ill thought out”.
The model follows a similar approach to that taken in Australia, which the government eventually abandoned.