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Faster, higher, wider – politicians clash over digital strategies

A House of Lords committee must surely be the definition of staid, but this week the Lords communications committee put something of a rocket up the Government with some harsh criticism of its plans to roll out broadband.
To put it bluntly, the committee says the Government has the wrong strategy and we’re travelling fast up the wrong superhighway.
Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt has promised speeds of 2Mbps across the land by 2015. He’s added that 90% of the UK will be on super fast speeds of 25Mbps. And, even in these times of austerity, the coalition is prepared to spend on what they recognise as a vital infrastructure for modern life. More than £500 million pounds has been set aside to help achieve this target. BT has won most of the contracts to carry out this work.
But the House of Lords beg to differ and argue that speed targets are a diversion. Instead, they want the Government to focus on the hardware that will put, and keep, the UK at the top of the broadband speed charts.
Their report argues for ‘open access fibre-optic hubs’ that will spread across the country, eventually reaching every community. They’d like Ofcom to step in where infrastructure owners resist granting open access to their equipment and argue that local businesses and communities will be best placed to make the final decisions on their own connection needs.
This is important stuff, not least for Government. One of the proposed ways to reduce state spending is by delivering services online. High speed broadband is increasingly a must have for any successful business.
The House of Lords committee’s recommendation that broadband strategy should be 'driven by the need to arrest and ultimately eliminate the digital divide, rather than deliver enhanced provision for those with already good connections' has been criticised by some in the industry. Speaking to Computer Business Review, Andrew Ferguson of Thinkbroadband.com says the ideas in the report have no prospect of becoming policy.

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