Interesting to see that the UK Government's House of Lords Select Committee on Communications has launched an inquiry into the UK's broadband strategy, as spotted by ISP Review and ThinkBroadband.
Submissions are sought by 13th March 2012. The call for evidence document notes how demand for broadband has risen in recent years and is set to increase further. It questions whether the Government's strategy is sufficiently ambitious, given that "consumer demand for bandwidth is growing by around 60% a year" which may require "speeds of 1Gb/s...by 2020". It also notes that "current investment looks unlikely to be sufficient to deliver this". The document asks some interesting questions:
- What speed of broadband do we need and what drives demand for superfast broadband?
- In some ways this is the wrong question. It's more important to ask what services do we need to deliver via superfast broadband both now and in the future, as these will define what speeds are required. I think the demand question has already been answered (I've had a go a couple of times): concurrency is the key driver for demand, as more and more devices require access to homes' broadband connections, something exemplified in recent research commissioned by BSkyB.
- ...are there other targets the Government should set; are there other indicators which should be used to monitor the health of the digital economy?
- Things like increasing takeup of online services spring to mind here (making sure that people aren't left behind at the same time), together with data demonstrating increased satisfaction as a result, as well as the savings and benefits accruing from the more efficient and effective delivery of public services.
- How will superfast broadband change e-commerce and the provision of Government services?
- Lots of opportunities here, countries like Australia and Singapore seem to have a strong grasp of these possibilities already.
This recent DCMS press release makes for interesting reading in the context of this new inquiry. It follows on from December's announcement (covered in this previous post) requiring local authorities to submit their draft local broadband plans by the end of this month (February 2012). The new press release provides an update on local authorities' progress, reporting that "a third of the 47 projects are now ready to begin taking superfast broadband to homes and businesses in their area". However, "There are 32 projects that have not had their Local Broadband Plans approved yet. Of these, a total of 16 have been rated as ‘high confidence’ the timetable will be met with 13 rated as ‘medium confidence’. But three groups of local authorities are making insufficient progress."
So, a rather mixed picture. Not an ideal report card perhaps in the run up to a House of Lords Select Committee's inquiry into the effectiveness of the UK's broadband strategy ?