Opinion: Lords Select Committee Report On Communications, Nothing More Than A Pipe Dream?
By Matthew Howett, lead analyst, regulatory telecoms, Ovum
For a long time it was joked that the UK was on a 'low-fiber diet' and that the government's broadband policy represented a 'poverty of ambition for a digital Britain'.
Today the report of the Lords Select Committee on Communications adds to these cries and calls on the government to set out an even bolder vision for broadband policy than is currently being followed. However with nearly 50 recommendations and no indication of costs or how they should be met, it's likely to be dismissed as nothing more than a pipe dream.
The report mixes at times a good narrative of how we ended up where we are with some questionable recommendations. It rightly criticises the vague ambition set out by the government to 'have the best superfast broadband in Europe by 2015', and calls for more clarity on speeds. As ISPs themselves are increasingly criticised for the advertising of misleading speeds, it only seems right that the government is clearer when outlining its ambitions. It is also welcomed that the obsession should not just be on the availability of products with certain speeds, but also the number of people using them. Despite 60% of all households having access to superfast speeds, just over 6% are using them. Any government led strategy should also think about the poetry as well as the plumbing.
However there are aspects of the report that will strike many as simply odd. Some recommendations appear to ignore the fact that access to BT's network (both copper and fiber) is already available on equivalent and non-discriminatory terms and that winners of BDUK funding must provide open wholesale access to their networks. It also criticises the government for giving time for market forces to play out. Whilst this is most likely... continued on page two >