Opinion: Carter's Digital Britain report is a digital work in progress

Philip Virgo says the interim Digital Report is a work in progress and should be welcomed as such. It's time, he argues, to read and respond, not just complain.

Our IT and politics blogger, Philip Virgo, offers up his opinion on last week's interim report to government, Digital Britain.

The reception given to Lord Carter’s Digital Britain Interim Report indicates that few have yet read the report or his speech covering the principles on which was based

They attack “ideas to be considered” as though they were “recommendations”.

Moreover, few have compared the vision to that of Obama, let alone that for competition in the local loop to provide full motion video to the home by 2002, which was HMG policy until 1997, as mentioned in my blog on the report, where I also expressed my concerns that the comments on facilitating duct and infrastructure sharing could perpetuate the growing vulnerability to single points of failure in a society that is now critically dependent on its communications infrastructure. 

These points aside, the report itself is unashamedly work in progress and shows a wickedly dry sense of humour.

For example the section on the idea for a Rights Agency says "It may be that such an independent objective body may be better able to surmount the mutual tension ... If the UK can develop such a working focus, we will have an advantage over most other countries," and refers to the responses to the consultation on P2P file sharing on the BERR website which says "None of the options ... attracted widespread support. Rather there was a marked polarisation ..."

The Rights Agency could become the most reviled agency since that for Child Support, a piggy-in-the-middle for bitter feuds between those who can never be reconciled. Or it could uniquely position the UK as knowledge broker for the world. It is certainly well worth exploring but success will depend on an outbreak of common sense, constructive thinking and co-operation among those fighting for discretionary consumer spend and advertising revenues in a shrinking market.

One of the great virtues of the report is that it makes no bones about some the challenges to be addressed and allows departments and agencies to condemn themselves.

The challenge, to "industry", to produce an agreed set of radio spectrum trades by the end of April 2009 is really a challenge is to the suppliers to come together and stop Ofcom and Treasury from faffing around with "administrative incentive pricing". Can they resolve their conflicting vested interests or are they willing to take a gamble on a political decision that might be in favour of those whose shareholders would do better if they left and took their jobs with them?

The statement that the "Valuation Office has provided new clear guidance which addresses the problem of clarity over business rates ..." is similarly wicked. Do visit the Valuation Office website, and see if you can find it!

Once again, we have a situation which militates in favour of incumbents and against innovation and new investment. It must be resolved if the report's headline objectives are be achieved.

There is much, much more to debate and discuss.

But do take this interim report at face value.

Don’t just read and complain.

Read and respond.

This is genuine work in progress.

Read further

The Digital Britain interim report on the DCMS site >>

Lord Carter's speech on digital Britain >>

Philip Virgo's blog: Two cheers for Santa Carter's work in progress >>

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