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Carter says no public money for broadband

The government has confirmed it will leave the investment needed for next generation broadband to the market.

The strategy emerged in Lord Carter's interim review of Digital Britain.

The review, published today,contained 22 action points to maximise investment in high-speed fixed, mobile networks and digital content.

But it made clear that no public money would be forthcoming in the short term to create Digital Britain. Instead the government will set up a strategy group to see how far existing investments by Virgin Media, BT and other network operators will take the country towards universal access to a fixed or wireless broadband connection.

>> See also: The Carter Review: Digital Britain

"We will, by the time of the final Digital Britain Report, have considered the value for money case for whether public incentives have a part to play in enabling further next generation broadband deployment, beyond current market-led initiatives," Stephen Carter said.

The government will bring in a universal service obligation on all network operators to provide a basic connection of up to 2Mbps to their networks, Lord Carter said.And it would consult to see how to fund the requirement.

He promised to introduce legislation to allow owners of radio frequencies and physical infrastructure such as cable ducts and radio masts to share them with other communications service providers, to speed up the rollout of broadband. This will require careful regulation, given the complex mix of interested parties.

He defended the present regime of business rates, which has been criticised for favouring large network operators over smaller rivals. The regime was clear, Lord Carter said, but he undertook to ensure potential investors understood them.

Carter said the government would support a competitor to the BBC for public broadcast services. This would draw in part on Channel 4's assets. He said it made sense to start by looking at Channel 4 and BBC Worldwide, but the government was studying other options too.

Carter said the government will consider a new Rights Agency to safeguard online content owners' civil rights. The ageny would be funded by a levy on rights holders, he suggested.


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