Broadband review faces April 2009 deadline for success


Broadband review faces April 2009 deadline for success

John-Paul Kamath

The government review into how internet service providers (ISPs) can be encouraged to build super-fast broadband networks will only be worthwhile if policies follow and are put into place as policies before April 2009, according to a report from the Broadband Stakeholders Group (BSG).

The broadband minister Shriti Vadera announced a review to be published in September 2008 into how government could remove barrriers, such as road work costs, for operators investing in fast broadband networks.

Industry experts argue that policies on rolling out fast broadband will have to be implemented quickly because the time involved in building networks nationwide could take years.

"Upgrading current broadband networks and deploying next generation ones does not happen overnight. Even once they are ready the benefits to UK businesses can take up to three years," said Jupiter Research analyst Ian Fogg.

Delaying nationwide roll out of fast broadband could harm the UK's ability to attract inward investment. This is particularly the case in the manufacturing sector, as companies increasingly look for high speed communication links when choosing to cite operations said Carolyn Kimber, chairman of the Communications Management Association, part of the British Computing Society.

"The report by the BSG forecast that the UK had a 24 month window of opportunity in which to move next generation broadband from pipe dream to reality. That was in April last year. The clock is now 10 months down and ticking."

The BSG report said that the government needed to ensure that the UK ranked highly in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) list of nations for broadband quality and reach by 2012. The UK lags behind countries such as Japan and France in headline speeds.

Competitiveness Minister Stephen Timms, who was previously in charge of broadband until the cabinet reshuffle, held a debate with the UK's leading ISPs in November to discuss ways the government could improve broadband coverage.

But findings from this meeting have not been made public nor were the findings referenced in the government announcement concerning the review in February.

David Harrington, CMA Regulatory Affairs Forum leader, said that the purpose of the November summit was to develop a "vision statement" to set the context for future investment and establish future priorities.

"But if that was the case, why is the government going over old ground again? I support the government's review, I just hope that some concrete actions come out of this review in time," he said.

The government review will consider the impact of barriers on both speed and reach of a likely deployment of next generation broadband. The Broadband Stakeholders Group will report later this year on the economic case for fibre deployment in the UK.

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