MPs to investigate Britain's broadband speeds

The Digital Britain report, published earlier this month, proposed that all homes would have access to broadband speeds of at least 2Mbps by 2012.

Now for a country that has Virgin advertising up to 50Mb via their cable network and O2 advertising up to 20Mb on the existing phone-line network that doesn’t really sound very ambitious. It seems that some MPs may also be thinking just that.

So, MPs who work in the Commons Business and Enterprise Committee are to open an inquiry into broadband speeds in the UK. They will also look into whether the proposed 50p broadband tax is fair or not – the charge would be added monthly to anyone with a fixed telephone line.

Their concern is that by not aiming higher, the UK will fall behind the rest of the world in terms of broadband speeds. This handy chart courtesy of the BBC shows just how far we are behind already:


Even the French are beating us – sacre bleu. Also, South Korea has set a target of a minimum of 1Gbps for all homes. That kind of blows our target out of the water.

(via BBC)

The Digital Britain report and what it means to you


The report we’ve all been waiting for is finally out but, now that the dust has settled, what’s actually changed and what does it mean for you? Have a read of the Tech Digest breakdown.


What we’re expecting

Universal Internet program whereby at least 98% of the UK would be covered by broadband fast enough to stream live TV services, i.e more than 2mb/s – possibly funded by the part of the licence fee set aside to assist the nation with digital switchover which won’t be needed by the time the analogue signal has been switched off in 2012.

The freed up funds could be given to BT to help with the huge costs of supplying fixed line broadband to remote locations. It’s also possible that the remaining and most difficult to reach communities could receive broadband via satellite although this would mean subsidising subscriptions to services such as Sky.

Mobile broadband is also expected to be widened to much of the nation. Currently only a small proportion has 3G service from the big five mobile operators with large parts of Scotland and Wales ignored.

It’s hoped that the part of the electromagentic spectrum currently dedicated to the analogue TV service will be sold off to Vodafone, O2 et al and used as encouragement for them to expand their infrastructure and increase their speeds.

What we got

  • Small 50p levy on fixed telephone lines to build an independent fund to be used to maximise the spread of hard-wired, fast internet to as much of the UK as possible. Without this and left to private enterprise, only 2/3 of the country would ever receive quality service in the next 10 years.
  • Promise to modernise the UK wireless network to ensure we don’t fall behind in mobile internet services globally speaking
  • Upgrade of all national radio stations from analogue to digital DAB by 2015

What it means

By the sounds of things, a small increase in our telephone/broadband bills – a phone line tax – most likely raised at the ISPs and almost definitely passed on to the consumer. Not ideal but I can handle giving a little for the gift of decent broadband to my remote countrymen.

The commitment to mobile broadband sounds rather wishy washy and although the sentiment is good, I wouldn’t go expecting 3G coverage in Kinlochbervie any time soon. There’s plenty of wheeling and dealing to do with the big five over termination rates and bandwidth tenders before we get that far but at least the Government has a bargaining chip.

As for digital all national radio services. Well, hmm, still doesn’t sound like enough to warrant buying a DAB radio if you live in the sticks.


What we’re expecting

A lot of toing and froing between ISPs, record labels, Ofcom and EU legislation about how the “problem” of piracy can be tackled without infringing the rights of the consumers in regard to be being monitored and shut off.

Likely that UK ISPs will be given some kind of power beyond idle threat letters to cut off persistent mass file sharers. Some thoughts are of a three strikes rule but the point is that there will be firm legislative backing to follow through on the threats

What we got

  • Development of legal download markets in the UK to provide a viable alternative to piracy
  • Ofcom handed task of reducing file sharing and powers to notify of unlawful activity as well as hand over the details of serial infringers to allow legal action to rights holders.
  • ISPs given the task of reducing file sharing by 70%. Given powers to throttle bandwidth of repeat offenders but no three strikes legislation.
  • Online piracy and the downloading and uploading of copyright material whether though peer-to-peer or otherwise to be considered civil theft.

What it means

Well, it’s a promise to get heavy on file sharing, and more to the point, a promise to get heavy on ISPs if they don’t. You’re probably still safe grabbing the odd TV episode here and there – don’t quote me on that – but expect to have your bandwidth cut and invitations to a court hearing from not so friendly record companies should you do so in any serious quantity.

Unclear how easy it’s going to be to police but expect the UK legal system to show you little mercy or offer you much protection. Watch your backs.

Channel 4

What we’re expecting

The short fall in profits and huge financial issue facing the public funded Channel 4 should be answered. There’s a good chance that part they’ll be helped out by the Government to make sure that the services don’t fold.

What we got

  • Talks between BBC Worldwide and Channel 4 to secure the future of the latter

What it means

Channel 4 will go on, seemingly as aided by the commercial arm of the BBC and perhaps after 2013 by the by the licence fee itself.

The License Fee

What we’re expecting

No rise expected for the consumer and nor do we think it’s going to be scrapped either. Universal Broadband should ensure that all licence payers receive equal opportunity to experience the services that we’re all charged for.

However, it’s likely that the BBC will have to put up with having their lions’ share cut down in order to fund institutions like Channel 4 and the implementation of the Digital Britain schemes.

What we got

  • No mention of BBCs exclusivity on the licence fee as such
  • No mention of the cost of the thing either
  • Slightly unclear references to the sharing out after 2013 but a clear knowledge that the BBC has no inherent right to it
  • Provision of spare switchover funds to aid local and regional news organisations to ensure their survival

What it means

It looks as if the BBC will lose their monopoly on the license fee come 2013. Very good chance that a lot of it will go to regional news and Channel 4.

Local newspapers and websites – often cited as the cornerstone of UK journalism – will not disappear into the ground. You’ll still receive your large, papery copy of the Maidenhead Advertiser complete with lollypop lady stories, cats up trees and completely outmoded cinema listing as well as local TV news, which ITV can no longer support, and local news websites.


If you live in Scotland and Wales, you don’t file share and you don’t work at the BBC, then it’s generally good news. Channel 4 and all that enjoy it – most of us, I asume – will breathe a sigh of relief.

In fact, it’s only really bad news for pirates and, even then, it’s unclear at the moment as to how well this 70% clampdown’s going to be enforced. Try switching to free streamed services. Ownership is so 90s.

All in all, it could have been a little stronger but then everyone would’ve complained. It’s the 50p levy that’s probably the most important and best move for the country as a whole. Great news that Channel 4 will be looked after along with local news organisations. Maybe not an Earth shattering report but good, solid important stuff.

(via music 🙂 ally)

Government gets behind 2Mbps broadband for all by 2012


The UK government has signalled its backing of at least one section of Lord Carter’s Digital Britain interim report from earlier this year by setting aside enough cash to give everyone in the UK a minimum of 2Mbps broadband by 2012. The cash will come primarily from an underspend in the promotion of digital TV.

It’s not yet clear exactly what form that broadband might take – ADSL, cable, wireless and satellite are all options – but that information will hopefully be contained in the final version of the Digital Britain report, which is due out in early Summer 2009.

(via BBC)

22% of the UK don't want your fancy high-speed internet


I remember when broadband first became available in the UK. I begged my parents to upgrade our slow, slow AOL dial-up internet access, so I could download bigger files and actually be competitive in online games (it was some years later when I discovered my poor performance was not solely attached to my slow connection). No avail, they were happy with AOL, which is a sentence you don’t see very often these days.

Regardless, they have (or had, rather – they got broadband pretty sharpish as soon as I’d left for university) quite a lot in common with 24% of the UK, who also don’t see the point in this high speed internet malarkey. That’s according to OFCOM’s CEO Ed Richards, who made the claim in a speech to the London School of Economics.

Digital Britain report: a summary


So, the Government has just released its Digital Britain green paper. It discusses a number of
different things that the government wants to do for the future of Britain’s digital industry, ranging from telecoms, through radio, television, broadband and, as we discussed this morning, intellectual property.

It’s an interesting read. There’s some positive aspects, and some negative ones. Some bits of the report are very ambitious, but others show no ambition at all. I’ll go through each sector in order over the break.

UK Government to tax every British broadband connection £20 for copyright enforcement


A £20 charge could be levied on every broadband connection in Britain, to pay for an agency that will provide data about serial copyright-breakers to music and film companies, if plans due to be announced today by the Government in its ‘Digital Britain’ green paper come to fruition.

Today, Lord Carter of Barnes will propose the creation of a quango which will be paid for by a levy on ISPs, who’ll almost certainly pass the cost on to their subscribers. Also in the white paper is a proposition that every house has a right to 2Mb/s broadband.