Channel onlookers have slammed the Digital Britain report as a half-hearted attempt to drive innovation and have called on the government to address businesses' technological needs.
The report, published yesterday, expanded on plans to ensure everyone in the UK has access to at least a 2MB broadband connection. This will be funded, in part, by surplus money from that given to the BBC to facilitate the digital TV switchover. Commercial partners and public sector bodies will supply the rest of the cash.
Currently, 2.75 million households, 11 per cent of the UK total, lack a 2MB connection. Digital Britain also claims that a further 1.5 million homes might benefit from next-generation broadband access as a consequence of the scheme.
The report represents "a missed opportunity for UK business", according to Paul Lawton, managing director of carrier Opal. "Digital Britain’s focus on downstream speeds of only 2MB will limit broadband’s wider use, because for businesses it is the upstream which is the limiting factor," he added.
"If the UK is to leapfrog other countries, a framework must be put in place to support the new raft of high-bandwidth, business-critical applications required for UK businesses to complete.”
An annual £6 tax on landline users is also to come into effect to help fund the deployment of superfast broadband. The charge of 50p per month on fixed copper lines could raise £175m a year to fund the rollout of fibre technology in rural and remote areas.
Many such areas will not be covered by the next-generation networks being deployed by carriers as the cost of doing so is commercially unviable. The landline tax has already encountered criticism, with shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt saying: "Simply slapping on an extra tax is an old economy solution to a new economy problem."
To combat piracy, the government has made it incumbent on UK ISPs to ensure illegal file-sharing activity is slashed by 70 per cent in a year. Communications regulatory body Ofcom will be given additional powers to compel ISPs to gather data of those accused of unlawful activity.
Those who offend repeatedly will be informed of the illegality of their behaviour and could have their details given to games and software developers, which could undertake legal action. Severe offenders might find themselves banned from particular web sites and may suffer inhibitions of their connection's capacity and speed.
Richard Heap, head of telecoms for auditor BDO Stoy Hayward, was another to criticise the report's lack of ambition. " (Report author) Lord Carter has gone ahead with plans to provide the UK with outdated technology at a speed akin to a snail’s pace," he said.
Heap also called for resources to be funnelled towards improved broadband speeds, rather than universal access, adding: “To add insult to injury, Carter has said he is going to tax every phone line in the country to fund this inaptly named “next-generation” network."
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