Last night, at the Convergence Conversation (Digital Economy Bill, Swan or Albatross) there was surprisingly unanimity across Telcos, ISPs and even Content producers that the agreement of the LibDems and Conservatives to the rushed compromise over the Bill had been a mistake. Their aim had been to get the Act out of the way so that the new government could concentrate on sorting out Public Finances before the IMF did it for them - but it was likely to backfire on all concerned.
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We have much heart-searching as to what the 2 mbps universal service target means. The "answer" is to redefine it as "reliable, working, access to government's on-line services by 2012" - particularly those of Defra, DWP and HMRC - to be assessed by the NAO. With the Audit Commission assessing the performance of Local Government in parallel.
In George Orwell's 1984 the TV screen in the corner also watches you. The PC or mobile that is the "extension to your mind" and your "window into world" is also the world's window into your mind, available for rent to any those will pay or who the government deems should have uncharged access. Surveys indicate that about a third of population is deeply suspicious - but not yet in a state of open revolt. The rest think "so what's new"?
HMG has just launched a consultation to extend the remit of Ofcom to promote "efficient investment in infrastructure". The six week timescale is determined by the need to legislate before the next government reviews the very existance of Ofcom. But can we afford a two year wait for a proper review of the UK communications infrastructure, given the stress tests it will face in 2012 if not before? And can we afford to leave that review to Ofcom?
Those involved in the pre-legislative scrutiny of the Communications Act 2003 which created Ofcom were well aware of the need to subsequently review implementation and perfomance. There were various ideas as to how to achieve this: including a joint committee of both Houses. None came to pass.
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