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Digital Britain rumbles on June 30, 2009

Posted by letitiahughes in Technology.

Well the Digital Britain report has been out for a while now. People have had a chance to digest it and give their thoughts, so here are some of mine.

The Digital Britain report aims to be a guide for how Britain can sustain its position as a leading digital economy and society. There is a big focus on people and pipes within the report – for a more detailed management summary please see here .

The ‘people’ part is all about digital inclusion and digital skills central to Government plans for the UK of the future. People are a big part of this report, and the implication is that it is use of technology which will help drive the economy out of the recession. Martha Lane Fox, co-founder of LastMinute.com, has been appointed as the new Champion for digital inclusion.

The ‘pipes’ part is all about the move to universal 2MB broadband speed and Next Generation Access. This will also be a trigger for a programme of Digital Switchover of Public Services before 2012.

The Government believes that the fairest and most efficient means of ensuring that the overwhelming majority of the country has access to Next Generation Broadband is to create an independent Next Generation Fund, based on a supplement of 50 pence per month on all fixed copper lines. This initiative is not popular and led the media coverage on the Digital Britain report.Nevertheless, I think that the important thing about Next Generation is bridging the rural urban divide – where First Generation is unlikely to be sufficient.

Unsurprisingly, the political response to the report overall was not that positive. Jeremy Hunt, the Conservative Party’s shadow secretary of state for culture, media and sport, called Digital Britain a “colossal disappointment” , particularly the proposal for a monthly 50p tax on fixed copper lines. Hunt said a better tactic would be to stimulate investment by changing regulations to encourage providers to spend on fibre development.

Don Foster, the Liberal Democrat shadow culture, media and sport secretary said that the plans for rolling out Next Generation Broadband are a step in the right direction but rural areas may face a wait of nearly a decade to see the benefits. They broadly welcomed paying for Next Generation Broadband, however suggested the Government must consider exemptions for pensioners and other less well off people.

So now the majority of people have had their say and the report moves to the implementation stage, where there are going to be some key changes in legislation such as the Broadband Universal Service Commitment. It will be interesting to see how much these issues become part of the electoral hot topics as the General Election approaches…


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