DCMS Select Committee call for inputs on the performance of Ofcom

I apologise for not having had time to blog over the last week or so. First came the rush to get inputs to the Digital Communications Infrastructure Strategy consultation by October 1st. Then came preparations for the launch (at the party conference) of the Conservative Technology Forum studies on the creation of 21st Century Digital and Skills Infrastructures. I reproduce the text of the flier for the CTF study below and will blog on the Skills study next week. I also plan to blog on the growing political divide evident at the party conference between the “IT establishment” (Big Data, Big Systems, Big Business, Big Government) and the majority of voters (who apparently trust their ISP or Telco with their data little more than they would a journalist and even trust Government more than they do on-line retailers like Amazon).

But have just been reminded of the Department of Culture Media and Sport Select Committee call for inputs on the performance of Ofcom . The Committee meets with Ofcom once a year to review its performance. This is your opportunity to suggest the questions they should be asking. The deadline for written submissions is 13th October. You should also note that deadline for inputs to Ofcoms next Annual Plan is 15th October. As always their document inviting inputs leaves our any mention of the needs of business users (large or small). The consequences of the omission of this from their statutory priorties are now all too apparent and need action as a matter of urgency – bypassing Ofcom if that is what is necessary.   

I have already been copied with half a dozen submissions to the DCIS consultation for use in the CTF policy study and understand that INCA plans to put those submitted by their members and partners in website and DPA may do likewise, also cross linking to INCA. Several of those that I have seen are very critical of Ofcom’s track record as a competiton regulator, particularly with regard to services for business and charges for access to BT’s infrastructure. Now is the opportunities for Ofcom’s critics to suggest questions for the Select Committee to ask. 

Text of the flier for the CTF Digital Infrastucture study:

How do we create and maintain Digital Infrastructures for the 21st Century?


In his first speech as DCMS Secretary of State (July 2010), Jeremy Hunt quoted Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google that “it is now vital that businesses and government build their strategies around the Internet”. The Internet and the communications infrastructures over which it runs are changing at an accelerating pace. Society is increasingly dependent on seamless on-line services that are always available. We can no longer afford to base policy on simply extending the life of half a dozen increasingly fragile, 20th century, semi-incompatible, pre-internet, fixed and mobile telecoms networks. We need to look at how to facilitate and expedite the transition to a seamless mesh of fully inter-operable services that collectively provide the necessary post-internet resilience.


Policies based on protecting returns on past investment and extrapolating the business models of current communication and internet service providers risk locking the UK into a dead end. We need to encourage investment in “future proof” services, including to locations and communities not currently well served. That requires government, to act as pro-active and intelligent customer, mandating open inter-operability standards, including IPV6 (the next generation of the Internet) for its own procurements. It also requires encouraging and assisting local authorities to pool spend on their own service delivery needs and economic development responsibilities, using the Social Value Act, with local businesses and property owners, in order to help pull through investment, via both current national operators and the new community network builders, in world class local access.


The study focuses on the actions necessary if we are to use market forces to deliver world class, socially and commercially inclusive, inter-operable, UK digital infrastructures. The topics include:


1)     Basing a Universal Service Commitment on “guaranteed” access to services that are “fit for purpose”, with purpose including the effective use of “Digital by Default” services.


2)     Ensuring candid, accurate and meaningful information on prices, capacity and performance, particularly with regard to services to business.


3)     Improving guidance for local government and other public sector organisations on good practice in planning and procurement


4)     Mandating and supporting open Inter-operability.


5)     Providing the political and regulatory certainty needed by infrastructure investors while  responding to problems, particularly abuse by dominant players or local monopolists.


6)     Improving the skills of government as an intelligent pro-active customer and robust anti-trust regulator.


7)     Ensuring confidence that infrastructures are indeed sufficiently secure and resilient for those whose lives and businesses will depend on them.


The intention is to involve industry experts in round tables with relevant professional bodies and trade associations. The material will be digested for political use and tested with prospective parliamentary candidates for constituencies where broadband is a known hot topic. The results will be forwarded to ministers and to local councillors to help them drive local initiatives as well as to the 2015 policy team.


How do you participate?


Visit the website http://www.conservative-technology.org/  Click on membership, download the form and join. Join the discussion group on Linked In. Please also send  an e-mail with note of your interests and expertise, including relevant professional and/or political experience, to the CTF Vice Chairman, Policy Studies:  [email protected]

Readers will note that the questions are different to those answered in the recent “Number One in Digital” study published by the Labour Party. That is partly because we expect to address subjects like the tension between “Digital by Default” and socially inclusive public service delivery separately and partly because we want to focus on how to achieve results at affodable costs but also because there is little point in asking the same questions of the same audiences (several of the lead participants have already helped the Labour party study). Where there is agreement across the political divide we aim to flag this early on, probably via the all-party Digital Policy Alliance, so that actions can be brought forward to before the election purdah.