Full Digital Britain Report Published

Take a deep breath and prepare to be bored, patronised or even insulted if you're the least bit technically savvy.

Reading Lord Carter’s ‘Digital Britain’ Interim Report was a painful enough process but it has nothing on the full, 245 page monstrosity. Frankly, I’m amazed I’m still alive having waded through it and I’m still not entirely sure exactly why because it’s mostly a load of verbose, tedious waffle.

The running theme of getting the entirety of Britain connected by 2012 sounds fair enough. £200m of investment is intended to see every home in Britain on a 2Mbit minimum connection.

The government also plans a 50p levy on fixed line internet connections to facilitate the rollout of ‘superfast’ ‘net connections to those in the 1/2 of the country expected not to have them by 2017. Sure, that’s “only £6 a year” and maybe private industry can’t cope with the cost of getting a broadband infrastructure to the entire country without external funding but it nonetheless rankles a little that I will be subsidising the rollout of ‘superfast’ broadband to those not in areas where it’s available. Of course if I move into one of those areas in the meantime I’ll likely change my opinion – and having a national fibre optic network would be pretty neat.

Still on the subject of the ‘net are plans to create a more robust legal and regulatory framework around digital piracy. Ofcom is to oversee “a significant reduction in unlawful file sharing by imposing two specific obligations: notification of unlawful activity and, for repeat-infringers, a court-based process of identity release and civil action.” In other words, Ofcom will be able to force ISPs to take action against users engaging in piracy in their networks be that by contacting and asking them to stop, imposing bandwidth restriction or by instigating legal action should such measures prove ineffective.

Further, the Government is to “make some changes to the legislative framework around copyright licensing” in order to encourage cheap digital distribution of content. There’s no word on how that will be done, but it’s said that some of this legislation will come from the EU.

Their report also proposes that a slice of the BBC’s License Fee could be shared with other, commercial, broadcasters with a public service remit. Specifically, the £130m annual allowance in the License Fee for Digital Switchover could be reallocated once that process is completed to be shared with ITV, Channel 5 and Five. Further to that, Channel 4’s role is to be changed, although there’s no explanation as to what the result of that will be.

By 2015 all national radio stations are do be broadcast digitally and that a complete switchover to digital radio will be implemented once digital stations comprise 50 per cent of all radio listening and announced two years before the switch actually happens. Coverage of digital radio is to be boosted to reach 90 per cent of the population.

In the mobile arena, the 800MHz wireless spectrum made available by TV’s Digital Switchover is to see a “timely clearance” before being combined with the “so-called 3G expansion band in a single auction of 10MHz-width blocks of spectrum.” Limits will be imposed on the amount of spectrum existing mobile operators can buy, ensuring that both the current five (Vodafone, Orange, 3, O2 and T-Mobile) and potential new entrants can all get a fair share. Current 3G licences are to be made permanent which will, supposedly, make investment more likely as a result of the certainty provided.

So there you have it, 245 pages and the report hasn’t said anything all that profound and none of the proposals set out seem exactly revelatory. I’m underwhelmed to say the least, but what do you guys think?

Digital Britain Full Report (245 page, 3MB PDF).

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