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UK Parliament Opens Inquiry Into Broadband ISP Speeds

Posted: 30th Jun, 2009 By: MarkJ
The UK Parliament's cross-party Business and Enterprise Committee has agreed to carry out an inquiry examining broadband speeds in the UK. The move follows Lord Carter's recent Digital Britain report, which pledged to provide a 2Mbps universal minimum UK broadband speed by 2012 (USC) and put forward a broadband tax on fixed phone lines to help fund the rollout of next generation technologies.

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Topics the Committee will consider include:

• Whether the target for universal access to broadband at a speed of 2Mb/s by 2012 is ambitious enough?

• Is the Government right to propose a levy on copper lines to fund next generation access?

• Will the Government's plans for next generation access work?

• If companies are providing the speed of access which they promise to consumers?

• The extent to which current regulation striks the right balance between ensuring fair competition and encouraging investment in next generation networks? and

• Any other views stakeholders think the Committee should be aware of.
Broadband speeds were debated in great detail last year too, which ultimately resulted in the publication of Ofcom's new voluntary Code of Practice (CoP). More than 95% of UK ISPs have so far subscribed to this CoP, which makes the following promises:
Under the Code, ISPs are required to:

•provide consumers at the point of sale with an accurate estimate of the maximum speed that their line can support;

•explain clearly and simply how technical factors may slow down speeds and giving help and advice to consumers to improve the situation at home;

•offer an alternative package (if there is one) without any penalties, if the actual speed is a lot lower than the original estimate; and

•explain fair usage policies clearly and alert consumers when they have been breached.
However the original CoP faced criticism from some quarters for its concentration on connection speed - as opposed to actual real-world performance, though this would have been very difficult to judge anyway. The new inquiry is unlikely to touch too much on this side of the debate and instead appears to be focused towards the specific elements outlined by Digital Britain.

In that case we would hope that the inquiry doesn't neglect to consider other aspects in the performance of a connection, such as upload speed, latency and the need for 2Mbps to be a strict minimum (at least for basic downloads, browsing, email etc.); this would help to prevent adoption of technologies that claim 2Mbps and subsequently fail to deliver it.

It's understood that written evidence on broadband provision should be sent to the Committee before Friday 25th September 2009, although no specific publication date for the final report has been set. Credits to Thinkbroadband for spotting the link.
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