Will superfast broadband meet the needs of our "bandwidth hungry" nation?

It is time to stop whinging in private about what DCMS and/or BDUK are doing or not doing and make your views known. You have just over three weeks in which to open the doors and windows and shed light on the murky arguments about demand, funding, state aid, procurement frameworks, quality of service, inter-operability, spectrum and infrastructure sharing that are taking place behind closed doors, between consultants,  lawyers, regulators  and lobbyists. 

The House of Lords Select Committee on Communications, chaired by Lord Inglewood, is announcing today an inquiry into the Government’s superfast broadband strategy. The Committee invites interested organisations and individuals to submit written evidence as part of the inquiry.

Written evidence is sought by Tuesday 13 March 2012. Public hearings are expected to be held in March, April, May and June. The Committee aims to report to the House, with recommendations, before the summer recess. The report will receive a response from the Government and may be debated in the House.

Consumerdemand for bandwidth has increased significantly in recent years and is certainto continue to rise with the increased take-up of internet services and theirever increasing applicability. Superfast broadband enables high-bandwidthcontent to be delivered quickly across the network, enabling users to access arange of services such as telemedicine, improved video conferencing and thestreaming of HD or 3D video content. In addition, the development of the UK’sbroadband infrastructure will determine what opportunities UK innovators andentrepreneurs have to develop a thriving ecology for the creation and exploitationof new services. The depth of penetration of superfast broadband infrastructureinto communities is therefore of strategic importance: it is a key factor inensuring no community is left behind, and that innovation and competition arestimulated in the provision of local access and in the development of newservices.

InDecember 2010, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Departmentfor  Business, Innovation and Skillspublished the Government’s broadband strategy, Britain’s Superfast BroadbandFuture, which aims for Britain to have “the best superfast broadband network inEurope by 2015”. The Government have committed £530 million to help stimulateprivate investment in those locations where the commercial investment case is weak;the Government’s ambition is to provide superfast broadband to at least 90% of premisesin the UK by 2015 and to provide universal access to standard broadband with a speedof at least 2 Mb/s.

BTand Virgin Media have led the way with their investment in superfast broadband networks.At the same time, a range of other players, often with innovative businessmodels, have been developing their own networks. Some of these run onfixed-line (primarily fibre optic) cable, others on mobile and satelliteplatforms. The resulting infrastructure is as complex technologically as it iseconomically and in terms of regulation. In addition, despite the progress thathas been made, given that consumer demand for bandwidth is growing by around60% a year and given the critical importance of superfast broadband toinnovators, entrepreneurs and ultimately economic growth, speeds of 1Gb/s maybe needed by 2020 and current investment looks unlikely to be sufficient todeliver this.

TheCommittee would welcome written submissions on the Government’s superfast broadbandstrategy and related issues. Questions the Committee will consider include:

·        Whatis being done to prevent a greater digital divide occurring between people who canaccess superfast broadband and people in areas where the roll-out of superfast broadbandmay not be commercially attractive? How does the UK communications market varyregionally and what is the best way to connect the areas that the market alonecannot reach? Is a universal service obligation necessary to avoid widening thedigital divide?

·        TheGovernment have committed £530 million to help stimulate private investment – isthis enough and is it being effectively applied to develop maximum social and economicbenefit?

·        Willthe Government’s targets be met and are they ambitious enough? What speed ofbroadband do we need and what drives demand for superfast broadband?

·        Infact, are there other targets the Government should set; are there other indicatorswhich should be used to monitor the health of the digital economy? What communicationsinfrastructure does the UK ultimately need to remain competitive and meetconsumer demand over the next 20 years?

·        Howwill individuals and companies use cloud services for distributed storage and computation?What network properties are required to enable efficient provision and use ofsuch services?

·        Towhat extent will the advent of superfast broadband affect the ways in which peopleview, listen to and use media content? Will the broadband networks have the capacityto meet demand for new media services such as interactive TV, HD TV and 3Dcontent?

·        Howwill superfast broadband change e-commerce and the provision of Governmentservices?

·        Willthe UK’s infrastructure provide effective, affordable access to the ‘internetof things’, and what new opportunities could this enable?

·        Howmight superfast broadband change the relationship between providers and consumersin other sectors such as content?

·        Whataspects of this relationship are key to enabling future innovations that willbenefit society?

·        Whatrole could or should the different methods of delivery play in ensuring the superfastbroadband network is fit for purpose and is as widely available as possible?

·        Howdoes the expected demand for superfast broadband influence investment to enhancethe capacity of the broadband network?

·        Doesthe UK, for example, have a properly competitive market in wholesale fibre connectivity?

·        Whatbenefits could such a market provide, and what actions could the Governmenttake to ensure such a market?

·        Whatimpact will enhanced broadband provision have on the media and creative industriesin the UK, not least in light of the increased danger of online piracy?

·        Whatis the role of the Government in assuring internet security, and how should intellectualproperty (IP) best be protected, taking into account the benefits of opennessand security?

You need not addressall these questions. The Committee would also welcome any other views of whichstakeholders think the Committee should be aware.

 14 February 2012

 Evidence should be submitted in an editableelectronic form as a Microsoft Word document, or as plain ASCII text, by e-mailto [email protected] Please do not submit PDFs. If you do nothave access to Microsoft Word or to the internet you may submit a paper copy toSelect Committee on Communications, Committee Office, House of Lords, LondonSW1A 0PW, fax 020 7219 4931. The deadline for written evidence is Tuesday 13 March2012.

Shortsubmissions are preferred. A submission longer than six pages should include aone-page summary.

Evidencesent in paper form must be clearly printed or typed on single sides of A4paper, unstapled.

Paragraphsshould be numbered. Evidence should be dated, with a note of the author’s name andstatus, and of whether the evidence is submitted on an individual or corporatebasis. All submissions will be acknowledged promptly.

Evidence becomes theproperty of the committee, and may be published by the Committee at any stage.Once you have received acknowledgement that the evidence has been received, youmay publicise or publish your evidence yourself, but in doing so you mustindicate that it was prepared for the Committee. Parliamentary privilege willnot apply to your own publication.

Personalcontact details supplied to the committee will be removed from evidence before publication.However, personal contact details will be retained by the Committee Office and usedfor specific purposes relating to the committee’s work, for instance to seekadditional information or to send copies of the committee’s report.

Writtenevidence will normally be published online and deposited in the Parliamentary Archives.

Personswho submit written evidence, and others, may be invited to give oral evidence.Oral evidence is usually given in public at Westminster, broadcast in audio andoften video format on the internet, and transcripts are published online.Persons invited to give oral evidence will be notified separately of theprocedure to be followed and the topics likely to be discussed.

Substantivecommunications to the Committee about the inquiry should be addressed throughthe clerk or the Chairman of the Committee, whether or not they are intended toconstitute formal evidence to the Committee.

Thisis a public call for evidence. Please bring it to the attention of other groupsand individuals who may not have received a copy direct.

Youmay follow the progress of the inquiry at:



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