Digital Britain report not met with rapturous applause

Communications minister and ex Ofcom boss Stephen Carter really had his work cut out for him compiling the interim Digital Britain report, released at the end of January.

The report, which was intended to address the future of all aspects of Britain’s digital communications, including TV, radio, and of course the internet, was finally released on January 29th, amongst a mass of ‘leaks’ and rumours. It was thought that the report would address such thorny issues as broadcast spectrum reallocation (after the switch to digital frees up some bandwidth), internet content controls, and ways to provide viable broadband access for everyone in Britain.

When the report finally saw the light of day, however, there was a collective sigh of disappointment that could probably be heard from space. Aside from being couched in language so dense that reading it is like wading through treacle, the report seems to spectacularly fail to answer any of the pertinent questions at hand. There’s lots of talk of assessing, appointing, finding out and removing barriers, but no actual decisions on the proposed extension of the universal service obligation, the refarming of the broadcast spectrum, or who will foot the bill for the rollout of the next generation of broadband in the UK.

With other countries forging ahead in terms of digital technology implementation, Britain is in serious danger of getting left behind. Sweden has already completed its switchover to digital TV and has reallocated much of the spectrum, and Scandinavia has one of the highest broadband penetration rates in the world. And in Japan, broadband speeds of 100Mbps are the norm – which makes Lord Carter’s 2Mbps ‘broadband for all’ look pretty lame really, doesn’t it?

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