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Government Publishes Next-Gen Broadband Report

Posted: 13th Sep, 2008 By: MarkJ
The Governments Department for Business Enterprise & Regulatory Reform (BERR) has officially published its long awaited Francesco Caio report (original news) into the investment barriers facing next-generation UK broadband services (NGA's).

Caio initially starts by pointing out that the short term case for a major Government intervention is weak, referencing the UK's good broadband penetration, average headline (advertised) speeds of 5.9Mbps and strong market competition.

He also notes BT's recent £1.5bn commitment to next-gen broadband (news) and Virgin Media's forthcoming 50Mbps product. However he then calls on the government to "act now to support investment" in next-gen broadband services, stopping short of calling for state subsidies:

This first conclusion, however, should not lead to complacency. In the mid- to long term, Broadband/NGA will become a critical digital utility, essential to the competitiveness of any country and to the quality of life of its citizens. The UK will be no exception and, if anything, it will be even more dependent on this infrastructure than other economies.

Here, high-quality broadband will be essential for the continued development of sectors that in recent years have elevated the UK to a position of global leadership, such as the creative industries, financial services, software and gaming. Equally importantly, broadband will be central to critical processes of information and innovation in education and health services.

Because of this, the Government and Ofcom, as the two principal entities involved in determining the efficient and effective deployment of NGA, need to play an active leadership role in shaping broadband policies.

This does not translate into subsidies or structural changes in regulation, but rather a set of initiatives that could support and inform the activity of regulators and industry players in their journey to NGA. The government should seek to remove obstacles that could potentially delay or compromise the development of the new network.

The report also goes on to make a number of other interesting recommendations, which include helping Ofcom to speed up the release of new broadband wireless spectrum, relaxing regulation and forcing ISPs to be more transparent about their traffic management policies. That last one would be particularly welcome.

There's plenty more detail in the report itself and we'd strongly suggest reading it in full to get the complete picture, which is difficult to simplify into a short news summary. Suffice to say that much of it is to do with designing a good planning, development and monitoring process for NGA's.

The report follows hot on the heels of a similar review by the Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG), which was released earlier in the week (here). It warned that it could cost between £5.1bn and £28.8bn (depending on the technology used) to bring next generation broadband services to the whole country.
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