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New broadband policy focus urged
9:52am Tuesday 31st July 2012 in Business Daily
© Press Association 2011
THE Government's broadband policy has become "preoccupied" with delivering certain speeds to consumers and needs greater focus on access to the internet through a national broadband network, a report by peers has concluded.
The House of Lords Communications Committee warned of the "spectre of a widening digital divide", stating there was a "very real risk" that some people and businesses were being left behind.
In their report, Broadband For All - An Alternative Vision, the peers said progress was being made in providing enhanced broadband provision.
However, UK broadband policy, rather than being target-driven, could support a national broadband network allowing people to "connect in different ways according to their needs and demands".
The report stated: "The delivery of certain speeds should not be the guiding principle; what is important is the long-term assurance that, as new internet applications emerge, everyone will be able to benefit, from inhabitants of inner cities to the remotest areas of the UK."
The report recommended national planning for a "communications network of local, regional, national, and internet exchanges where different operators can site equipment and exchange traffic, all linked by ample optical fibre that is open to use by competing providers".
Committee chairman and Conservative peer Lord Inglewood said: "The current strategy is based around providing certain levels of speed across the country and we're not convinced at all that that is the right place to start thinking about a policy and a programme for rolling out broadband infrastructure."
He added: "What we need to do is to find a system, it seems to us, that enables people to get what they want and pay accordingly."
Culture, Communications and Creative Industries Minister Ed Vaizey said: "We've set ourselves a target that, by 2015, 90% of the country will have super-fast broadband. Generally speaking, most people define that around 35Mbps speed, but we've said that 100% of the country should have access to 2Mbps."
On the issue of broadband access, he added: "What we wanted to do is say there's a very competitive marketplace, particularly between the two main players, Virgin and BT, in terms of laying the fibre to people's homes. Government intervention is needed for the rest of the country so we've put in place £500 million to support that."