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Campaigners use Twitter to press for faster broadband

Ian Grant

Volunteers who regard themselves as "digitally literate" are holding a series of country-wide "unconferences" this week to influence communications minister Stephen Carter's final report on Digital Britain.

The initiative came in the wake of dissatisfaction with the majority of views presented at the Digital Britain summit on 17 April, particularly on the government's lack of commitment to broadband speeds faster than 2Mbps.

Bill Thompson, who set up a digitalbritain Twitter account subsequently taken over by the Digital Britain, said it was unacceptable to have the main government recommendations on digital development drawn up "through a process that privileged the elite whose voices were already being heard inside Whitehall and offered those on the outside the option of sending an email and hoping to be listened to".

The series of meetings, which have been set up largely using Twitter and blogs, are taking place in London (today), Cambridge (7 May), Glasgow (8 May) and Nottingham (9 May). Communities in Oxford and Yorkshire have already met.

The communities are using a wish list of what they believe Lord Carter's report should contain as a template dubbed the Fake Digital Britain report.

Among the top items is symmetry in upload and download speeds. The government has said it will oblige communication service providers to deliver a universal 2Mbps download service, but upload speeds may be much slower.

Thompson said in a blog, "The proposal for two megabit per second universal service by 2012 was derided (at the summit) while the suggestion for a (Digital) Rights Agency was lambasted. There wasn't even a single mention of Facebook."

Critics point out that 2Mbps is adequate for distributing video, but anything slower makes it harder for video producers to upload their content.

The digital community also wants safeguards on net neutrality. This means that internet service providers will not be allowed to "shape" or manage traffic flows to prejudice some users, notably peer to peer file sharers.

The European Parliament is voting today on revisions to the so-called Telecoms Package that would preclude these demands.


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