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What will the Digital Britain report say?
Monday 15 June 2009 09:44:05 by Andrew Ferguson

The Digital Britain report may become one of the most important reports for the UK broadband industry, or it may just join the growing pile of reports and research. From tomorrow, we can debate the merits of the report and end the speculation.

The Interim Report gave us some hints about what we should be expecting from the final document. Let's look at what we expect to see:

  • The Universal Service Obligation, the minimum broadband speed which should be available to everyone in the country was headlined at 2Mbps in the Interim Report. We are very concerned that the final report may cave into pressure from mobile broadband operators which we suspect are likely to be pushing for a sub-1Mbps USO. This would in our  view be a disaster for the UK Internet, considering in particular that the USO is only expected to take effect from 2012.
  • The issue of contention, congestion or the quality of a connection have been avoided so far; we hope the final report will define what sort of speed drops will be tolerated on the USO service.
  • Latency is a big issue, and while online gaming is seen as a preserve of spotty teenagers, it is an area that has a lot of spending. Satellite services preclude the popular games and mobile broadband is far from ideal for twitch style gaming. Latency is also an issue for many other uses including Internet telephony services (VoIP).
  • The lack of any upstream bandwidth commitment has been a glaring omission from the report thus far; this must be addressed when the Internet is becoming so much more about user generated content. The media industry would certainly be better off with the public being able to share less files illegally, but this would be the wrong way to deal with this problem.
  • Where can you get the USO service? The Interim Report did not address how a consumer would identify the provider of a USO solution. In some areas, we may expect that the USO could be covered by mobile broadband providers, whilst in other areas it may be covered by BT services. The consumer needs one place to find this information in an easy-to-access way.
  • The issue of copyright abuse is the most contentious area of the report. We've seen three strikes policies, throttling and premium priced services all suggested. We could speculate that one of the likely solution is something along the lines of a 'bad boy pipe', where users thought to be sharing material without permission are placed onto a slower link to the Internet, or have peer to peer applications slowed down. The danger with the media industry serving notices that are hard to verify is that the systems for spotting the violations will be open to abuse, e.g. false IP addresses in torrent trackers. If the media industry simply concentrates on punitive measures then no real progress will result, the persistent offenders will encrypt their traffic to avoid being spotted.
  • So who pays for it all? This is probably the biggest question yet the answer is simple. We all will. The question is where does the money come from in the short term? Iit seems likely that up to £250m will be available from the Digital TV Switchover fund, but extra funding is likely to be sought from the industry, although we suspect that a lower USO will be adopted to lower this cost. To some extent the size of this digital switchover surplus is already being brought into question, due to requests for funding for regional TV news services.

The original interim report had many people hoping it would kick start super-fast broadband roll-outs across the UK; the current economic climate means this is very unlikely, and as those who read the interim report realised, this was very unlikely to ever happen.

So where do we go from here? We will of course be reporting the outcome of the report, but we would encourage everyone to read it for themselves--Too often outlets will overlay their own prejudices and agenda's to any coverage so it is important people speak up for themselves and make their voices heard.


Posted by mikeblogs over 8 years ago
Great list to which I would add,

1) The need for Net Neutrality principles as per the Norwegian model.

2) Rewrite of Ofcoms role from managing legacy voice services, to bit transport, changing all interconnect regimes to the common transport of bits, with separation of data transport from services.

3) New focus on transparent labelling of services including peak hour allocation of resources.

4)Steps needed to allow legacy voice services to be superseeded by services on higher speed networks.

5) Never mention a BRoadband option without providing an indicative price.

Posted by mikeblogs over 8 years ago
One last comment. What its really lacking is a context and a strategy. I would suggest something like,

Next generation networking of which next generation is a part will change how we conduct business and live our lives, through the provision of a high speed connectivity services fixed and mobile. The DB report begins to address the changes we need from the basic provision of a high speed service for all through to the significant re-writing of regulation to permit this and the public in vestment needed to make it happen.
Posted by AndrueC over 8 years ago
I think what is really lacking is a genuine interest in developing the technology and the guts to push it through.

They /could/ publish a roadmap toward FTTH in all urban areas, FTTC in all rural areas by the end of the next decade. Instead we're now thinking of 1Mb/s by 2012.

I'm not an advocate of high-speed broadband everywhere by the end of the year but this report doesn't sound like it will meet even my conservative standards.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
You don't even need to encrypt, it's entirely possible to, knowing the product soloution used for DPI, to construct soloutions which spoof it.

And yes, AndrueC, they could also tell BT it's going bankrupt. Back in the real world, I'm annoyed that they are essentially dismissing WiMAX when in many cases it will be a considerably better soloution than mobile broadband.
Posted by Dixinormous over 8 years ago
Right Falcon because of course Allot et al tend to give away to whoever wants to know their proprietary algorithms for identifying traffic. They're naturally common knowledge. Back in the real world of course some very clever people have worked on this, can't specifically construct solutions to confuse DPI (because they don't know the identification algorithms they being confidential) and can only generically obfuscate.

Posted by Dixinormous over 8 years ago
In other news regarding roadmaps, etc, who said anything about BT building these networks? If business rates on fibre were ditched and the appropriate legislation passed to make infrastructure competition feasible no reason why a number of other companies wouldn't be interested in at least some urban areas, this ignoring community and local initiatives which would likewise stimulate.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
how about fibre to the home in rural areas, and fibre to the cabinet in urban, funded by government instead of pushing through the identity card scheme? Telcos could take up the urban areas which are financially sound. Gov could just do the hard bits. That will fix the USO and build a futureproof network instead of patching up the obsolete model.
Posted by AndrueC over 8 years ago
@cyber:It depends wthe cost would be. I think FTTC would be highly cost effective in rural areas. Most villages could probably be covered from one central cabinet. It depends though on the distribution. Lots of isolated properties might be better served by fibre.

The problem with the government getting involved anywhere is the justification to the country and avoiding complaints of unfair competition from the private sector.

I agree about scrapping the ID scheme though :)
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
Or serve "isolated properties" with regional WiMAX rather thsn wasting billions, eh?
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