Top 10 stories in telecoms and networks 2009

The Digital Britain report, broadband speeds, taxes and privacy have dominated the world of networks and telecoms this year…

Special Report: Digital Britain

The British government is wrestling with the practical implications of the switch of many technologies from analogue to digital operation and distribution.

Its answers will determine whether the UK will have a communications "nervous system" that will allow its business, government and communities to thrive economically and to improve their quality of life. It is a debate of crucial importance to everyone who wished to live and work in the UK for the next decade or two.

Opposition grows to government piracy measures

Opposition is growing to clauses in the Digital Economy Bill aimed at stopping illegal file-sharing. Web heavyweights Google, Facebook, Yahoo and eBay have asked business secretary Peter Mandelson to scrap Clause 17, the "three-strikes and you're out clause" for illegal file sharing, from the Digital Economy Bill, saying it could give government "unprecedented and sweeping powers" to change copyright laws arbitrarily.

Tories promise to review broadband tax

The Conservative Party will prioritise a review of the business rates tax on fibre networks if it comes to power. Shadow arts minister Ed Vaizey told an international conference on dark fibre: "Labour's policy on business rates tax has caused huge damage to telecoms in the UK."

How the government taxes UK's broadband future

In 2003, Vtesse Networks, a small UK fibre network operator, challenged the Valuation Office Agency's assessment of BT for business rates in British and European courts. It argued that the VOA's assessment amounted to an unfair subsidy to BT.

Vtesse won the first case at the Valuation Tribunal on a technicality, but has lost all the ensuing court battles so far. Its appeals are due to be heard in mid-December. A win for Vtesse could unleash an investment boom in next-generation networks that would shorten the government's timetable to give effect to its Digital Britain policy.

Acta talks focus on three strikes, no appeal deal for software pirates

Negotiators met in Seoul to discuss enforcement measures against copyright infringement as part of a global anti-counterfeiting trade agreement (Acta). Leaked documents suggest that the proposals may give enormous power to copyright holders to police material on the internet without internet users having recourse to the courts.

Business rates are killing Digital Britain

The government's Digital Britain industrial policy may fail to meet its original goal unless it changes the way it values broadband networks for business tax, a Computer Weekly investigation revealed.

The taxes and possible new levies on homes and small businesses connected to fibre and wireless networks make access to broadband more expensive than it need be, especially in rural areas.

Stephen Timms guarantees minimum broadband speed

The government has promised consumers a guaranteed minimum broadband speed of at least 2Mbps.

Communications minister Stephen Timms said that the 2Mbps universal broadband service proposed in the Digital Britain report was for a guaranteed minimum network speed delivered to consumers. His promise goes further than Digital Britain report which spoke of an "up to 2Mbps" service.

Wi-fi and Wimax tax could be backdated five years

Business rates tax on Wi-Fi and Wimax networks may be backdated to April 2005, potentially putting an intolerable strain on many community networks in rural areas that depend on them for broadband access. The Valuation Office Agency (VOA), which is responsible for rating non-domestic buildings, plant and equipment, known as the "heriditament", for business property taxes, is considering whether Wi-Fi and Wimax equipment should form part of the heriditament on which the tax is based.

UK to crowdsource new government website

The government has turned to crowd-sourcing for the development of its latest website. The Cabinet Office's digital engagement blog has issued an invitation to all "open data developers" to help build a new government website.

Government preserves large networks' advantage in optical fibre rates

Proposed business rates on optical fibre networks for the next five years preserve the present 11% tax advantage enjoyed by large network operators over smaller ones and new entrants.

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