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Consumer Panel Proposes Testing of Universal 2Mbps Choices
By: MarkJ - 14 March, 2009 (8:50 AM)

The Communications Consumer Panel (CCP) has warned the government that any commitment to a 2Mbps minimum universal broadband service (USO) should be subjected to a Consumer Test. The idea being that any technology choices (Mobile Broadband, Satellite etc.) must first prove themselves worthy to deliver the required service:

Anna Bradley, Communications Consumer Panel Chair, said: “We recognise that it may be too expensive to deliver a universal service commitment for broadband which meets everyone’s expectations, but this makes it all the more important that people are given a realistic understanding of what they will be able to access in the way of services.

In deciding on the minimum service level, the Communications Consumer Panel believes that the key factor should be the need to ensure that all consumers have a broadband connection that allows them to use the online services, including public services, that are necessary to participate fully in society.

The testing processes would look at what consumers say are the services that should be available to everyone. The Panel highlighted its recent research, which indicated that (among other things) consumers anticipate access to streamed video. This requires a reliable connection of at least 2Mbps.

Consumers also want to use services such as telemedicine that require similar upload and download speeds, which is unlikely to be possible with current-generation broadband. So the Panel has also welcomed the fact that the Government is exploring how public incentives could stimulate rollout of new super-fast broadband networks, not that much will happen with that.

We firmly agree with the idea of a Consumer Test because many observers, including ourselves, fear that some of the potential technology choices may not be flexible or efficient enough to deliver a reliable 2Mbps minimum. It would be all too easy to pick a Satellite or Mobile Broadband solution without really checking whether the advertised performance meets reality, which it often does not.

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