Lords Select Committee to collect Superfast broadband evidence
The plans for the UK to have the best broadband in Europe by 2015 are often criticised, but often it is difficult to tell genuine concern apart from the usual UK habit of complaining about everything.
The House of Lords it appears is trying to get to the bottom of the issue, with the Select Committee on Communications issuing a Call For Evidence as part of an inquiry into the Government's superfast broadband strategy. Written evidence (a maximum of six pages per submission) will be accepted by email or on old fashioned paper, but must be submitted by Tuesday 13th March 2012. Already the Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA) has indicated its intent to submit evidence.
Some examples of the questions asked are:
- The Government have committed £530 million to help stimulate private investment – is this enough and is it being effectively applied to develop maximum social and economic benefit?
- Will the Government’s targets be met and are they ambitious enough? What speed of broadband do we need and what drives demand for superfast broadband?
- In fact, are there other targets the Government should set; are there other indicators which should be used to monitor the health of the digital economy? What communications infrastructure does the UK ultimately need to remain competitive and meet consumer demand over the next 20 years?
- Will the UK's infrastructure provide effective, affordable access to the 'internet of things', and what new opportunities could this enable?
- How might superfast broadband change the relationship between providers and consumers in other sectors such as content? What aspects of this relationship are key to enabling future innovations that will benefit society?
The Call For Evidence recognises that it is possible that by 2020 Gigabit solutions may be required, or even if not required, the lack of widespread availability may stifle innovation and economic growth, resulting in business setting up in countries where the infrastructure can support the speeds they require for a service.
The original BDUK format arose during the last years of the Labour Government, and while some parts changed with the new Government, overall ambitions changed little. The distinct danger is that the BDUK funded projects will simply become box ticking projects, and the 2015 metrics based measurement will involve enough weighting and fudging that an announcement of target met will be a foregone conclusion.
One area that needs addressing is that while the BDUK and local authorities have hidden behind a technology neutral fence, they have all failed to define key measurements for what is classed as superfast broadband, we have a range of download speeds from 20 Mbps to 30 Mbps that councils are using (BDUK defines superfast as 25 Mbps or faster), but no clear requirements on upstream or latency of services. Additionally the favoured solution so far appears to be VDSL2 via Fibre to the Cabinet solutions, which while giving good actual speeds of 35 Mbps to many, there are situations where a small percentage will see speeds below 20 Mbps, but we suspect that these properties will still be defined as receiving superfast broadband.