Tag Archives: Digital Britain

BT Threatens To Sue British Government Over Digital Britain Plans

The British government’s plans for providing fast broadband internet connection to each and every British household by 2012 have run into a major roadblock. Britain’s telecom giant, BT, has threatened to take legal action against the government if it goes ahead with its plans to liberalise the country’s mobile phone spectrum.

According to the plans under the “Digital Britain” scheme, the government plans to provide universal broadband access of at least 2mbps to every household by the time the London Olympics begin. However, in order to provide universal access, changes have to be made in the way UK’s five major mobile networks distribute the airwaves between themselves, so that they are able to offer mobile broadband services in rural areas where fixed line broadband is extremely slow. 

The universal access will also require the sale of new space on the spectrum that will available when the analogue-TV network is switched off in 2012. BT has sent a “letter before action” to the business secretary Lord Mandelson in which the company has asked the government not to use the soon-to-be-available spectrum for to serve this purpose and has threatened to take legal action if the government goes ahead with these plans. The company believes that the government is granting unreasonable subsidies to the mobile phone companies because if these plans go-ahead, they will have their 3G licenses extended indefinitely.

Read more: http://www.itproportal.com/portal/news/article/2009/12/29/bt-threatens-sue-british-government-over-digital-britain-plans/#ixzz0bAQuxYfY

BT promises super-fast broadband by 2012…better late than never I suppose!

BT has publicly committed to completing its £1.5 billion super fast broadband network in time for the London 2012 Olympics

Some customers will be able to receive download speeds up to 100Mbps via the company’s fibre-optics network. Ian Livingston, chief executive of BT, said: “Given the progress we’re making, four million homes will have access to fibre by the end of next year. 2012 will be an important year for the UK given the Olympics and so I’m keen we provide 10 million homes with access to fibre by the time the games begin.”

BT, which has a customer base of approximately five million, had originally said its super fast broadband would not be ready until 2013. The upgrade will be accessible to around 40 per cent of the population and those who receive 100Mbps will be able to watch High Definition video online.

Virgin Media already operates on a fibre-optics network and in restricted areas offers customers 50 Mbps. The government’s recent Digital Britain report has promised to roll out next generation broadband to every home in the UK – with a minimum 2Mbps speed.

Stephen Timms, Minister for Digital Britain, has committed the Labour government to introducing a new 50p a month tax on fixed phone lines to fund the roll-out – which is most urgent in the rural parts of the UK. He estimates that the tax will generate £1 billion by 2017, thus ensuring 90 per cent of the UK had next generation broadband. The tax is set to be included in next year’s Finance Bill.


Orange reveals future of broadband Britain

Mobile telecoms and broadband company Orange has unveiled a map detailing how the population densities of UK regions would change if truly universal, high-speed broadband was rolled out across the country.

The survey found that, given the option of easy access to the internet, populations in Scotland and the south-west would swell as people migrated.

Northern England and the Midlands would lose numbers.

The survey also highlighted the trends for remote working around the country, as faster broadband speeds and wider access to mobile broadband increases.

Robert Ainger, director of corporate marketing of Orange UK, said: ‘Our research found that a digitally connected workforce could change the face of Britain as we know it. Not only could the population itself shift, but the way we work could also fundamentally change.

‘The interactive map means that visitors to the site can quickly check out their current location or somewhere else that takes their fancy, to see how things are likely to pan out there in future.’

Orange also found that UK businesses could save as much as £31.7 billion by giving employees more flexibility in choosing where they work


GMG in talks to sell the Manchester Evening News

Guardian Media Group has confirmed it has held exploratory talks over the sale of its flagship regional newspaper, Manchester Evening News, as well as its other regional titles. Reports claimed a possible sale of the MEN is on the cards to Trinity Mirror, which prints GMG’s regional titles. The chance of a sale has been dismissed by one industry source as highly speculative, while GMG described the talks as being in their early stages.  A spokesman for GMG said: “In line with its remit, GMG keeps its portfolio under review on an ongoing basis. Since the publication of the Digital Britain report, we have been considering the potential for further consolidation within the regional press sector and, as part of this, there have some exploratory talks regarding our regional media business.

 “However, these are a very early state and it is not clear whether they will progress or what the outcome is likely to be.” Earlier this year, the company opted not to sell off its Sunday newspaper, The Observer. Instead, it culled a number of the paper’s magazines resulting in a slimmed-down version of the title, in order to cut costs. GMG is owned by the Scott Trust, whose function is to protect the editorial and financial independence of The Guardian. GMG publishes more than 20 regional titles and broadcaster Channel M as part of its regional operations.

Its latest financial results, for the period to March 2009, showed GMG’s regional’s operations posted a fall in operating profit, from £14.3m to £0.5m, after it was hit by steep declines in recruitment advertising (down 34%) and property (46%). Turnover was down from £120.5m to £94.5m. GMG Regional Media, which in April this year announced 300 job losses, said trading conditions had worsened since March, and it had been a making a monthly trading loss for six months. Trinity Mirror declined to comment.


UK broadband slower than Greece

The UK is lagging behind other countries at providing high speed broadband and fares only marginally better when it comes to national broadband penetration, according to research

The UK ranks 21st out of 30 countries surveyed by the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development, falling behind the likes of Greece and Spain.

Japan, Finland and Sweden make up the top three countries with the widest provision of high-speed broadband and Belgium, Turkey and Mexico make up the bottom three.

The OECD’s figures also show that the UK comes 13th out of 30 countries when it comes to broadband penetration, again falling behind the likes of Finland, Denmark and Sweden, but beating the US, Greece and France.

The OECD has said that the total broadband subscriber numbers in the areas it covers have swelled to 271 million as of June 2009, which is a 10 per cent increase on the year, but there is still a major need for governments to keep investing in new technologies. The report says fibre optic networks are likely to be the technology that generates the most future growth in broadband uptake, as opposed to cable networks.

The report urged for continual investment, saying: “This upgrade [to fibre optic networks] is important because high-speed broadband networks are increasingly seen as a fundamental infrastructure for the economy, like roads, water and electricity. Telecommunication firms have been investing heavily to upgrade older copper and coax networks to fibre to accommodate our ever increasing thirst for bandwidth.

“The economic crisis has threatened to halt this investment just as consumers and businesses are using more internet bandwidth. Many governments have stepped in to fill the gap using stimulus funds to pay for new broadband networks. But there is still a lot of debate about whether these investments make economic sense, particularly as governments are wading into an area which has recently been entrusted to the private sector.”

The Digital Britain report aims to generate more money to fund the increased roll-out of faster broadband with a monthly 50 pence tax on fixed landlines


Broadband tax to be levied per line not per household, says report

The government’s proposed £6 annual broadband levy would be charged per phone line rather than per household according to leaked government documents seen by The Times.

The tax will also include VAT, meaning that a household with separate phone lines for telephone, fax and broadband would pay £21.15 a year, rather than the £6 that had been mooted initially.

The tax is being introduced to help pay for the introduction of super-fast broadband delivery in rural areas of Britain. It is part of the Finance Bill that will be introduced early next year.

 The Times reports that up to 1.7 million households could be affected by the plan to charge per line, and that the tax will be levied not just on copper lines, as initially planned, but on high-speed fibre-optic connections. The charge is to be levied through phone bills. The Conservative Party has said that if it is voted in, plans for the broadband tax will be scrapped.


Protests grow over ‘ill thought out’ and ‘poorly worded’ UK Digital Economy bill

The Digital Economy bill has sparked a wave of protest among consumers and rights groups.

Soon after the bill began its journey through Parliament on 19 November, many expressed worries about parts of it. The bill suggests the use of technical measures to tackle illegal file-sharing that could involve suspending the accounts of persistent pirates. Critics fear this and other powers the bill reserves could damage the UK’s growing digital economy. The Digital Economy Bill is the end result of the consultation and research that went into the creation of the Digital Britain report that was published in June 2009.

As well as trying to tackle illegal file-sharing, the wide-ranging legislation also proposes a shake-up of the radio spectrum and a classification system for video games. Left out is the proposal for a broadband tax to fund next-generation broadband that will be handled in the Finance Bill due in early 2010. The proposals on file-sharing have garnered most criticism.

One of the first responses was the creation of a petition on the Number10.gov.uk website. Set up by Andrew Heaney, TalkTalk’s head of strategy and development, it calls for the abolition of the proposal to disconnect illegal filesharers. By 24 November, the petition had gathered more than 16,000 signatures.

The number of signatures got a boost from Stephen Fry who used micro-blogging site Twitter to direct people to it. Wrote Mr Fry: “Dear Mandy, splendid fellow in many ways, but he is SO WRONG about copyright. Please sign and RT {retweet]”. Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, which campaigns on digital issues, said: “It’s quite a shocking bill. We’re extremely worried about it.” Mr Killock said Section 17 of the Bill was worrying because it gave the Secretary of State “reserve powers” to draft fresh laws to tackle net-based copyright infringement without needing parliamentary approval.

“It could destabilise business and destabilise innovation,” said Mr Killock. “It means entirely trusting to bureaucrats and politicians to get it right.” Mr Killock said membership of the Open Rights Group had jumped by 20% in the run-up to the publication of the Bill. He said protests were being co-ordinated in many places such as Facebook and other social media sites.

He predicted that the protests would soon lead to some form of civil unrest, be that lobbying, a protest march or public meetings. US digital rights group The Electronic Frontier Foundation declared that giving the Secretary of State such powers amounted to the creation of a “pirate finder general” that could enact “draconian” copyright enforcement controls.

The Bill envisages that any proposed change to copyright law should be opened up to public comment before it is made. In a bid to defuse some of the criticisms, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills created a webpage entitled: “Filesharing: some accusations and some answers”. It pointed out that some of the criticisms levelled at the Bill were unfounded. It said it had not been drafted at the behest of the music industries. It added that “technical measures” to slow down or suspend net connections would not be imposed without those accused going through a tribunal system that assesses their case.

The Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) also issued a statement saying that it “strongly opposes” the measures introduced to tackle file-sharing. Said ISPA: “Rather than focusing blindly on enforcement, the government should be asking rights holders to reform the licensing framework so that legal content can be distributed online to consumers in a way that they are clearly demanding.” Law firm Eversheds said the copyright plans seem “hurriedly put together and not clearly thought-through” and warned that they could have “unforeseen effects.” It added: “Critics… may have taken some comfort from the fact that the proposals have yet to wend their way through an already congested legislative timetable before the next election, meaning it is questionable whether they will ever become law.”