Monday, October 25, 2010

UK's National Infrastructure Plan - broadband is key

The National Infrastructure Plan launched today (“a broad vision of the infrastructure investment required to underpin the UK’s growth”) considers “digital communications” as a key enabler, and re-states the opportunity for re-using existing broadband infrastructure on page 32:
“4.36 Maximise the use of existing public sector assets: 
  • release electromagnetic spectrum from public sector and other uses, which can be acquired by mobile operators for expansion and improved provision of mobile broadband services; and
  • reuse public sector communication assets as part of projects to ensure that the most effective use is made of public funds.”
Lots that's good here. For example, the plan acknowledges the opportunities broadband offers to education and healthcare, as one of the benefits of broadband:
"...enable better and more efficient ways of delivering public services; e.g. through improvement in the quality and delivery of education services to people in more rural and remote areas or improvement in the quality and delivery of healthcare services"
...just a shame that funding for ICT in education (the Harnessing Technology Grant) was cut earlier this year, as described in this previous post, with an interesting analysis of why this is a very short-sighted strategy here. More on the implications of funding cuts on schools' broadband here, and further details of what broadband offers for healthcare are available here.

Today's announcements follow on from these statements in last week’s Spending Review:
“...£530 million will be invested over the Spending Review period to support the UK’s broadband network and to incentivise the roll out of superfast broadband in areas that the private sector would not otherwise reach... The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) settlement includes...investing £530 million over the Spending Review period including £300 million from the TV licence fee, to improve the UK’s broadband network... benefiting around 2 million households, including in some of the most remote areas of the UK. As part of this investment, the Government will also pursue superfast broadband pilot projects in North Yorkshire, Cumbria, Herefordshire, and the Highlands and Islands.”
Good to see the re-use agenda remains to the fore, in keeping with the EU's views, and to see some significant funding committed as well. More on the four pilot areas on BDUK's new site here and on DCMS's site here.

Also from the plan, interesting that "the Government will publish a National Broadband Strategy in December 2010", which "will provide more detail on the full range of policy, legislative and funding initiatives that the Government is undertaking in support of its broadband vision", as trailed by Ed Vaizey at Rory Stewart's recent broadband conference. Watch this space.

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