Broadband News

EFRA publishes report into Rural Broadband

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA) has published a lengthy but well worth reading report on the state of Rural Broadband in the UK. The full report can be downloaded from here(1.1MB PDF document).

The committees aim was to look at why a 'digital divide' has appeared in the UK, and what can be done to close this divide. This is both from what the Government can do, and also what the various interested parties can do. To show how wide this gulf has become broadband (ADSL, cable & fixed wireless) is available to 95% of households in urban areas, but only 7% of households in rural villages.

Several recommendations do come out of the report:

  1. They strongly recommend BT to set trigger levels for ALL exchanges. The purpose is to allow people to have an idea of whether BT will ever make it to their area.
  2. Oftel and BT to clarify whatever confusion persists about the degree to which BT is able to cross-subsidise the enablement of exchanges with money made in profitable areas. BT at present believes it is not allowed to do this, Oftel believes that BT can though.
  3. The Government should make more of its services available online to encourage demand and use of broadband.
  4. The Government and regional/local authorities should work to encourage local broadband campaign groups.
  5. The Government should work to make more frequency bands available for the provision of wireless broadband services.
  6. Greater importance should be placed on enabling consumers and the private sector to 'piggy-back' onto public sector broadband infrastructure.
  7. The Government is recommended to clarify its understanding of the European state aid rules as they relate to public sector support for broadband.

A lot more recommendations are made, but these are the key ones. The call for BT to publish a trigger for all exchanges including those deemed as un-viable is interesting, as there is a growing number of people calling for this. Most interesting is the idea of cross subsidies between the large and small exchanges, and with the demand for ADSL growing this may be the way for BT to move forward.

Hopefully this report will not be just another report in a long stream of them, but will actually produce some actual benefit to the people who currently have no affordable access to broadband.


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