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Six months for Lord Carter review to decide Digital Britain path
Monday 20 October 2008 17:20:22 by Andrew Ferguson

Lord Carter who was recently appointed the first Minister for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting has announced a review of the communications industry that is worth some £56 billion a year to the UK economy.

"Digital Britain is about capturing the opportunities on offer for UK PLC and the public, and advancing our standing as a world leader in these industries.

Our ambition is to see Digital Britain as the leading major economy for innovation, investment and quality in the digital and communications industries. We will seek to bring forward a unified framework to help maximise the UK’s competitive advantage and the benefits to society."

Lord Carter talking about the review

The Times has picked up on the review, in particular the hints that public money may be made available to boost connections in addition to the £300 million to be used by 2012 in getting one million families with school age children online. One particular aspect that those who want broadband but cannot get a decent solution is the talk of the introduction of a Universal Service Obligation for broadband.

One immediate thought is that this six month long review follows on from a lengthy report published in September 2008 and as such could be seen as further stalling, while still displaying concern. As the Culture Secretary suggests it is time to move on from the think tank approach and actually start delivering. In six months time when this report is finally published the state of the financial markets may force communications providers to rein in next generation plans. This is very likely if existing sources of affordable credit dry up.

An obligation to provide everyone broadband with a minimum connection speed of 2Mbps would be welcome, currently telephone lines are only required to support a dial-up speed of 0.028Mbps. The danger is in how this is implemented, it could be achieved with satellite broadband, which can make access to interactive services and online gaming difficult, and satellite broadband does have serious capacity limits in terms of launching enough satellites to handle the capacity. The current USO falls heavily on BT, and while spreading it out around other providers looks good on paper, how far does the Virgin Media and C&W networks stretch into Wales, Scotland and areas like Cumbria? BT of course would enjoy being the sole recipient of money to build out a FTTC broadband service outside the commercial areas, but if only BT got this money we may end up with a similar situation in another 10 to 15 years when FTTH upgrades are needed. One aspect often overlooked with fibre to the cabinet solutions, is that the properties on the edge of an exchange area can still have a line that is 3 or 4km long to the nearest cabinet, so while FTTC will be faster for some it will not be next generation for all.

One thing that Scotland and Wales have led the way in, is asking the public to register interest if they want broadband or their service is so slow that it hardly warrants the name 'broadband'. This approach makes some sense as there is little point in spending public money getting broadband to areas where people are not interested in it, and are never likely to use it. What needs to be avoided is for any government to make broadband compulsory, for example, lots of people will have made the choice to not have it at home.

The disruptive nature of broadband is such that any project that is trying to get people online or increase computer awareness, should consider issues like the fact there are millions of games consoles around the UK that can access web pages and that web browsers on mobile phones keep improving so that basic/essential online services do not need a home computer. The rise of bundling in the UK broadband market offers a way for getting lots of people online e.g. there are millions of Sky TV customers who could get a basic functional broadband connection for free. There are probably many more who could also exploit the free or subsidised broadband deals for having a mobile handset as part of a telephone package.

One thing is certain, the communications industry will be lining up for its share of any hand-outs after the billions used to shore up the banking system. The danger with hand-outs or subsidies will be that they can be used to prop up old business models and stifle new entrants to a market who do not have the staff or money to keep bending the ear of ministers.

Comments

Posted by c_j_ over 8 years ago
Lord Carter? Oh, you mean Stephen Carter, formerly MD of NTL, and then formerly Chief Exec of Ofcon. What could possibly go wrong there then?

http://www.ofcom.org.uk/media/news/2003/01/nr_20030121

On a slightly different point, you mention Scotland and Wales but say nothing about Northern Ireland where taxpayer money has already been handed to BT to provide "universal access to broadband" - a service BT are about to withdraw because the contract has expired!

http://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/i/3726.html
Posted by AndrueC over 8 years ago
Hey look, another review.

"and as such could be seen as further stalling, while still displaying concern."

Yup. Pretty much.
Posted by carrot63 over 8 years ago
A really exciting announcement, especially he was such a runaway success as head of Ofcon. We can now look foward to the process of doing very little (except subsidising businesses) taking three times longer than it did previously, generating many more column inches of largely meaningless drivel and the introduction of branded "Ministry of Communications, Technology and Broadcasting" bottled water ( see http://www.flickr.com/photos/smagdali/184117319/ ) without anything worthwhile actually happening. Digby Jones would be proud.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
The clique of BT, Ofcom and the government gets even closer. Looks like i was also right in the previous news items about it falling to BT to make sure the whole country has blanket coverage.Quote"The current USO falls heavily on BT, and while spreading it out around other providers looks good on paper, how far does the Virgin Media and C&W networks stretch into Wales, Scotland and areas like Cumbria?" Nice... Our tax paid money fills shareholders pockets AGAIN!!! ALL HAIL THE CLIQUE!
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
Who else is going to bid on it Carpet?

VM dosn't want it, C&W can't take it on because of their structure...
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
and other countries move forward leaving us further behind.
The only way to achieve is FTTH for everyone, and the incumbent should pay for this to happen before it bonuses fatcats and pays dividends. Then Ukplc stands a chance of ruling the waves once more. It will have to happen one day, so the sooner it does the sooner we can compete in the global comms market.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
quote"Who else is going to bid on it Carpet?"

Bid on it??? Did you not read the bit that says..."hints that public money may be made available to boost connections in addition to the £300 million to be used by 2012"

Im sorry bid on what, sounds to me more like the government and their new ex-ofcom buddy are going to give BT a nice chunk of cash, probably made up of taxes we all pay... Why should we be funding a PRIVATE and not public company again??
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
As much as i hate virgin media, and Sky, when was the last time the government helped sky with a MILLIONS to launch a new channel or pay their LLU fees to BT??
When was the last time Virgin Media got a pay out of MILLIONS see they can afford to still broadcast rights of Sky One from sky.... Or cable up another street that would for whatever reason like their service..... Oh im sorry i wasnt concentrating for a second... The answer is NEVER! Sick of BT, the goverment, ofcom and the nudge,nudge,wink,wink,buddy lark. {SPIT}
Posted by Somerset over 8 years ago
If the government were to fund BT/Openreach to roll out FTTC or FTTH then any telecomms company would be able to use it like LLU.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
quote"If the government were to fund BT/Openreach to roll out FTTC or FTTH then any telecomms company would be able to use it like LLU."

And no doubt like LLU fees will be involved that allow further growth of BT pockets.
Posted by Saltank over 8 years ago
100Mbit unlimited connection, please!
Posted by AndrueC over 8 years ago
@CARPETBUTN:"Im sorry bid on what, sounds to me more like the government and their new ex-ofcom buddy are going to give BT a nice chunk of cash, probably made up of taxes we all pay... Why should we be funding a PRIVATE and not public company again?? "

The alternative is to wait until BT (or someone else) comes up with a sound business case that shows a clear and definite RoI that shareholders will accept.

Take your pick.
Posted by Somerset over 8 years ago
CB - if private companies don't put in the infrastructure who will?
Posted by chrysalis over 8 years ago
the 300million is more about supplying a free computer to parents, it doesnt garuantuee they will (a) keep it and (b) signup to an isp.
Posted by chrysalis over 8 years ago
In regards to the new proposed USO, I used to be in favour of something like a 2mbit USO, but now I am in 2 minds, whilst it is good all lines should be made good enough to handle 2mbit, I am not convinced it is a good thing to force BT or other isps to supply connectivity to areas without subsidies when it be better to do via sattelite or mobile technologies.
Posted by chrysalis over 8 years ago
AndrueC I dont think CB cares too much his line is under 25db atten and he already gets 15mbit+. FTTC/H will very clearly be most beneficial to those with long lines which does happen to be a majority of the lines, short lines are a minority.
Posted by c_j_ over 8 years ago
re USO, <2Mb DSL:

A bit of joined up thinking a few years ago (in Carter's time at Ofcon????) and we could have had a national DSL alternative already. Eg offe the fixed access broadband wireless franchises for free in return for accepting a USO.

Instead, they were auctioned and eventually PCCW/Netvigator/Now! ended up with all the regional licences and Ofcon have allowed them to just sit on them, while the former Pipex and a handful of other WISPs are almost Invisible.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
quote"AndrueC I dont think CB cares too much his line is under 25db atten and he already gets 15mbit+. FTTC/H will very clearly be most beneficial to those with long lines which does happen to be a majority of the lines, short lines are a minority."
Hey dont blame me its BT and/or Ofcom rules that currently state something stupid like 256k speeds are acceptable... Personally id sooner see the money spent giving those which have no access AT ALL broadband rather than giving whingers of slow speeds fibre
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
None of those with long lines funded my LLU service... Why should i in anyway fund BT and a fibre service for them? Sounds cruel maybe but the truth often hurts.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 8 years ago
Those with slow speeds often have neighbours with no speed, but there visibility in online forums over this matter is obviously less.
Posted by chrysalis over 8 years ago
andrew something we both agree on, I have 50db attenuation, a bigger problem is the housing estate across the road from me, 4000+ houses that cant get a dsl synch. They fed from the same exchange so chances are an improvement on my line would give them dsl.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
quote"They fed from the same exchange so chances are an improvement on my line would give them dsl."

Id had thought the other way round would make more sense.... Expansion see they can get a connection would improve your line
Posted by chrysalis over 8 years ago
what I mean is FTTC, here would advantage me and them, my synch would go up whilst they would actually be able to synch as the loop length would be shortened.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
Well fibre would benefit everyone who uses the net, obviously.... Again though i dont see why the government should help foot the bill, why should tax payers, especially those that dont use or want the net have their money given to BT or anyone else to fibre up others?
Posted by Somerset over 8 years ago
So how do you fund FTTC in eg. the wilds of Norfolk?
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
quote"So how do you fund FTTC in eg. the wilds of Norfolk?"
How do "I" fund it? I wouldnt anyone that lives in a remote area also shouldnt want it. If i go camping in the middle of nowhere i dont expect British gas to fit a pipeline for me. This is down to 2 things, either this countrys biggest comms provider pays thereself to do it, or those that live in the middle of nowhere should pay for it. If your community wants broadband and no company will pay to do it your community should foot the bill.I dont see why my taxes should.
Posted by comnut over 8 years ago
very true. there are too many freetards thinking it's a 'right'..

myself, if I was in a remote area w/o gas or net, I would choose gas first...


Posted by c_j_ over 8 years ago
Is broadband still a luxury? What about the many suppliers leaping on the "it'll cost you £x for a paper bill" bandwagon, and the government offshoots prattling on about "e government" without a decent national connectivity strategy?

There are practical alternatives to gas in rural areas. There aren't many practical alternatives to bb. I'm typing this in a rural village where gas arrived a couple of years ago but many still use oil, LPG, etc. Meanwhile, the DSL here has just started its 3rd or 4th outbreak in a few years of intermittent loss of sync.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
quote"Is broadband still a luxury?"
When in this instance it costs an additional 300 million to give it to you id say yes it is.
I know of homes in the UK that are not even hooked up to the national grid, they use generators, so obviously broadband is still a luxery and a privledge NOT a right.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago

quote"There are practical alternatives to gas in rural areas. There aren't many practical alternatives to bb. I'm typing this in a rural village where gas arrived a couple of years ago but many still use oil, LPG, etc. Meanwhile, the DSL here has just started its 3rd or 4th outbreak in a few years of intermittent loss of sync."
How long have you had dialup for?... thats the internet after all. Alternatives? Have you checked if in your location you could get satelite broadband? Sure not cheap, but then again if its not a luxery you can afford it, rather than waiting for my taxes to fund you.
Posted by comnut over 8 years ago
quote: "Is broadband still a luxury?"
I'd like to see you convince the DWP to pay for it, its difficult enough to get them to pay your rent!

"What about the many suppliers leaping on the "it'll cost you £x for a paper bill" bandwagon"
- saving costs, the planet, and you from filing it all(and its not compulsory!)

"and the government offshoots prattling on a decent national connectivity strategy?"

meh, thats just them trying to sound 'modern' to catch votes... It will be YOU the pays for it by taxes!

and even in USA, there are places still on dialup....
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
quote"and even in USA, there are places still on dialup...."
Indeed, also i highly doubt you would have a situation in that country where say New Yorkers taxes would be given to a firm to provide fibre to lets say Texas.... If all those with long lines or poor speed are happy to have others taxes hook them up to fibre then how about we also increase their taxes and give them to H20 for connecting up Bournemouth... If my money is going to pay for their fibre there is no reason their money shouldnt pay for others fibre also.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
No Carpet, they're being used to fund a countrywide wireless broadband scheme with filtering for porn. DO keep up with the times.

And right, writing my MP to complain about LLU. It needs *taxed*
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
LOL LLU firms already pay BT, If you want them to pay a tax to the government instead of fees to BT im all up for that... Not much of a choice to be honest but anything that takes money out of BT pockets is fine by me. Im happy to pay a tax on my LLU and help the whiners get faster broadband... And in turn the whiners taxes can be increased to pay for the services they receive from my taxes and ploughed back to other private non BT firms see we all have a choice. GREAT idea!
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
I of course wont have to pay this new fibre tax as i will already be paying a tax on my LLU connection and wont have BT fibre. As my LLU is not from BT it isnt crippled, capped and throttled to death... Yep i think you have stumbled on something here, tax everyone based on the service they have and how much it costs to provide.... Im more than happy to pay less as my LLU wont need billions of miles of new cable.
Posted by Somerset over 8 years ago
Presumably LLU companies will move over to FTTC or FTTH instead of copper?
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
No Carpet, a tax on LLU providers to enable BT to provide broadband to more people. Oh sure, any company "who wants to bid", which means BT.

And a block on migration from LLU back to BT, disconnect and reconnect baby. FFTC has great potential and there's no reason you should be able to share it.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
quote"Presumably LLU companies will move over to FTTC or FTTH instead of copper?"

Presumably they will be given lots of tax payers cash to provide in areas they dont already, like BT? And presumably if pricing works like it currently does LLU companies wont have to pay BT any further as the majority sum to get everyone hooked up will come from government pockets not BTs. Some how i dont think so!
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
quote"No Carpet, a tax on LLU providers to enable BT to provide broadband to more people. Oh sure, any company "who wants to bid", which means BT."
As stated LLU companies already pay BT, so maybe BT should use the money LLU companies are paying them to hook up more people in this country, shouldnt they?
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
quote"And a block on migration from LLU back to BT, disconnect and reconnect baby."
Why can people move to LLU freely but again have to line BT pockets if they wish to move back? If a small LLU company thats paying BT monthly rental can connect you up for no additional charge surely the almighty BT can.... Ah how stupid of me i forgot the shareholders wouldnt like that
Posted by cornishgirl over 8 years ago
Having come across this site whilst trying 2 find out what is happening 2 help people like me who can't get broadband I thought i'd c if anyone can help me out as I'm confused by the technicalities! I live in part of Cornwall that can't get broadband due 2 distance from the exchange. It is v hard 2 run a business on dial up without having a 2nd phone line and the cost of what is a poorer service compared 2 deals avalaible 2 broadband customers. Is anything being done 2 help, can anything b done? Any easy 2 understand advise would be appreciated, or links with reference 2 this, Thanks
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
Basically cornishgirl it comes down to 1 thing BT are a private company and they dont want to spend money connecting you up.
About the best you may be able to get is ISDN, and even more annoying (i may be wrong) BT wont flog you that anymore.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
Carpet - It's called fair competition. BT have subsided LLU enough now.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
quote"Carpet - It's called fair competition. BT have subsided LLU enough now."

WHAT!!! are you serious??? How the heck have BT subsidised LLU.... My god they make money from LLU providers they dont subsidise them.

You want fair competition when it comes to fibre... How about this... The government give H20 networks a pile pile of cash also see they can roll out country wide instead of just Bournemouth..... There thats competition and fair.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
BT have allowed LLU to set up in BT's exchanges, adapted their spec for them, tolerated slamming by other phone companies, have limits on what they can charge for LLU...

And H2O networks are not interested. The only people *willing to do a USO* are BT.
Posted by comnut over 8 years ago
Dawn_Falcon: thats not subsidising, and correct me if wrong, did not ofcom or gov. force BT to share the exchange???
Posted by comnut over 8 years ago
something to do with monopolies commission I think..
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
Precisely "forced". That's a subsidy, a charity even.
Posted by comnut over 8 years ago
Dawn_Falcon: I dunno about your grasp of english!!

Forced = if you do not do it, we will FINE YOU £1000..

Subsidy = If you do it, we will PAY YOU £1000...




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