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MPs finally notice broadband is an issue for industry
Sunday 14 September 2003 15:19:00 by Andrew Ferguson

The Register carries the news that The Trade and Industry Committee, which is chaired by Labour MP Martin O'Neill is to look at 'Broadband Britain' starting this autumn.

Whilst we welcome the attention this will bring on the subject of ensuring affordable broadband becomes available across the UK, we must question why it has taken so long for this to happen. Earlier in the year EFRA, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee published a report that made many good recommendations. DO we need another committee to produce a report that takes six months to write, and is just a list of recommendations that will probably not be published until August 2004? Certainly we feel the answer is no. What is needed is action to be taken that makes broadband available to more people within months, rather than 2 to 3 years.

This new committee also is unusual in that Stephen Timms as e-minister is already backing 'Regional Aggregation Bodies', which offer some potential, but while we can see these bodies helping libraries/councils/hospitals the tangible effect for SMEs and home users is yet to be proven. The question that needs answering for a good three million people and a lot of SMEs is when will we get affordable broadband, or should we give up. BT has a hand in this, but so also do other companies like NTL and Telewest, who have large franchise areas. Then there are the upstart wireless providers on the 3.4GHz band, no firm information on their roll-out is available, additionally there are the LLU operators that are starting to get the exchanges unbundled.

The UK is not lacking in the technology to provide affordable services to 97% or more of all households, what it is lacking in is the finances to allow providers to take a 5 or even 10 year outlook.

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