The only way the UK can ensure access for all to high-speed broadband is to set a deadline, a Japanese minister has advised.
At an address to the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), Kiyooshi Mori, Japanese vice-minister for communications policy, said that Japan had already rolled out 100Mbps fibre broadband to 85% of households.
Japan expects ubiquitous access for businesses and consumers to high-speed broadband by 2010, driven by a four-year government programme to improve access.
"Studies showed that the ICT industry accounts for 40% of real Japanese GDP," Mori said. "This helped the government realise the importance of starting a programmme for ubiquitous access with a deadline."
Mori said the government had also introduced competition policies to make it easy for new ISPs to enter the market and to achieve open shared access to networks. As a result, the price of broadband is 0.07 dollars per 100Kbps compared with the UK's 0.69 dollars.
According to Ofcom research, DSL broadband is available in 99.6% of the UK. However, the Communications Management Association has questioned this figure and the average speed that users actually get.
"Although we think of cable modem and DSL services as high speed today, they are too slow to support networking of applications envisaged for the future such as high-definition IPTV," said Ovum analyst Matthew Howlett.
The UK government has set up Broadband Stakeholder Group to investigate the link between broadband and the UK economy as a precursor to any action on improving access. The group's findings will be published later this year.
"There is no evidence to suggest that those countries that have deployed fibre are in any way better off economically than those that haven't," said BERR deputy director Mark Swarbrick.