Tag Archives: TalkTalk

U.K. Antitrust Body Won’t Investigate Project Canvas

The U.K. Office of Fair Trading won’t investigate Project Canvas, the joint venture to bring Internet content and new video-on-demand services to television. The OFT has decided that it doesn’t have jurisdiction to review Project Canvas under the merger provisions of the Enterprise Act 2002 as none of the partners, including the British Broadcasting Corp., contributes an existing business to the venture.

The BBC started the project, contributing only existing research and development rather than a separate business unit. The contributions of the other joint venture partners will be primarily financial. Project Canvas is a joint venture between the BBC, ITV PLC, BT Group PLC, RTL Group SA’s Five, Channel 4, TalkTalk Telecom Group PLC and Arqiva Ltd. The partners plan to launch the project around Christmas.

Under the Enterprise Act 2002, a relevant merger situation is created if two or more enterprises cease to be distinct and if the value of U.K. revenue of the business being taken over exceeds £70 million. It also applies if a 25% share of supply in the U.K. is created as a result of a transaction. The project, which will allow U.K. viewers to watch free-to-air broadcasts and Internet content on television, will help traditional broadcasters attract new audiences while retaining existing viewers who have turned to the Internet for entertainment.

Project Canvas partners welcomed the OFT decision, noting the joint venture wouldn’t own, control or aggregate any content. “Project Canvas aims to create an open platform that delivers a connected future for free-to-air TV and a competitive market for internet-connected TV services in the U.K. The Project Canvas partners are committed to achieving that aim,” Project Canvas director Richard Halton said in a statement.

In December last year, the BBC’s controlling trust provisionally approved the corporation’s involvement in Project Canvas, saying that “the likely public value of the proposal justifies any potential negative market impact.” Watching TV programs online has increased in popularity, aided by the BBC’s on-demand Internet-TV service, iPlayer. Commercial broadcasters are exploring ways to distribute their programs to boost advertising. Project Canvas has faced criticism from pay-TV companies, particularly British Sky Broadcasting PLC, which cites a lack of independent scrutiny for the project. News Corp., the owner of Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones & Co., holds about a 39% stake in BSkyB.


TalkTalk ‘planning quad-play broadband deal’

Subscribers to TalkTalk’s broadband packages could soon be able to also take up mobile phone services as part of the deal, it has emerged.

The broadband provider is reportedly keen to become a mobile virtual network operator once its demerger from parent company Carphone Warehouse is completed at the end of March. Mobile Today reports that if the firm is successful, it could offer mobile services alongside its existing broadband and home phone bundles, as well as the digital TV platform it gained control of through its acquisition of Tiscali.

Discussing the move with the website, Strategy Analytics analyst Phil Kendall said the move was essentially “a natural extension” for TalkTalk. “Look at the others. O2 now has a fixed-line consumer offering, as does Orange. Vodafone is also likely to launch a product. T-Mobile and 3 are the only single play providers left in the UK,” he added. TalkTalk recently launched its new We’ll Call You service, which allows lonely over-65s to enjoy regular chats with a member of staff.


BT opens up its ducts to broadband fibre rivals

BT has said it will allow rival broadband companies to use its tunnels to lay their own superfast fibre network

All broadband suppliers will be allowed to lay their own fibre cables in BT’s tunnels, the company has said. Opening up its “ducts” could potentially encourage the development of a superfast broadband network and save rivals billions of pounds that would have been needed to dig up the nation’s pavements.

It is also in line with calls from the Conservative Party, rivals such as TalkTalk and BSkyB and also with European movements to encourage free access.

Jeremy Hunt, shadow minister for Culture, Media and Sport, had said that a Conservative government would break BT’s monopoly on the network to promote a nationwide broadband target speed of 100mbps, and agreed with TalkTalk and Sky that access to ducts would allow a more effective market to operate.

BT, however, has denied that it has simply caved in to political pressure: “We told [industry regulator] Ofcom last year we’re willing to provide open access to our ducts and poles and we are working with them on how to achieve it. Other companies already have access to our exchanges so we’re relaxed about providing them with another form of access as well,” said the company’s chief executive Ian Livingstone.

Questions, however, remain over the extent to which BT’s rivals will really want to lay their own cables , even in BT ducts; while urban areas may appear commercially attractive, BT is itself laying down some fibre which other companies are allowed to use themselves. In rural areas, there is unlikely to be an appetite from new companies because there will be an insufficient return on the substantial investment required. TalkTalk issued a statement saying that “We’re at the forefront of the debate about how best to provide super fast broadband to our customers. We’re talking to BT and Ofcom and we’re considering a range of options including our own fibre trial.”

The Conservative Party has said that it would use any underspend from the part of the BBC’s licence fee that is currently earmarked to help fund digital switchover. When that is completed after 2012, the Party would consider matched funding or loans to try to encourage a more widespread high-speed broadband network


Project Canvas kicks off advertising pitch

Project Canvas, the proposed on-demand web TV venture, is looking for an agency to handle its UK advertising account.  The service, which is backed by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Five, BT and TalkTalk, is planning to approach agencies with a view to holding a pitch for the business.

The successful agency will be responsible for handling all of Project Canvas’ ad campaigns, with the venture due to spend almost £50 million on marketing and brand development in its first four years. Project Canvas is due to launch its set-top boxes later this year, which will allow consumers to access each of the participating broadcasters’ video-on-demand offerings, as well as giving people access to internet content on their TV screens. Research conducted last year predicts that, by 2014, Project Canvas could reach up to 3.5 million homes.

However, the venture still faces problems, such as keeping set-top box costs down and finding a way around bandwidth bottlenecks.
News of the advertising pitch comes a month after the BBC Trust, the governing body of the BBC, gave its provisional approval to the organisation’s involvement in the project


Government opens next-gen broadband consultation

The government began a consultation process today to help decide how best to spend the £1bn it hopes to collect via a proposed Landline Duty for upgrading the UK’s broadband network. The Department for Business Innovation and Skills is hoping to get 90 per cent of the country online by 2017, with speeds starting at 2Mbit/s in order to help the country remain competitive in the global marketplace.

Business secretary Lord Mandelson said at the launch of the consultation process that the investment would help ensure that hard to reach areas of the country will not miss out on broadband access. “We cannot underestimate the opportunities this will bring for homes and businesses, which is why we are taking action to make sure everyone benefits,” he said.

Mandelson added that the upgrade will help boost the business potential of Britain’s digital economy, and also bring in jobs to the country. The government is worried that private investment in networks will only reach around 70 per cent of the population by 2017, and has proposed the Landline Duty to help fund its goal of 90 per cent as part of the Digital Britain initiative.

“The market is delivering superfast internet speeds of 50Mbit/s to half the country, but we cannot be certain that it will reach the communities that are not currently served,” Mandelson added. However, the Landline Duty, dubbed the Broadband Tax, will levy a 50p charge on every fixed landline, and has been criticised by ISPs such as Talk Talk.

On Tuesday the Earl of Lytton, a former member of the House of Lords, likened the charge to the hugely unpopular Poll Tax, and warned of a public backlash. The government has also said that it will appoint a procurement team to oversee the delivery and management of the project.


General Election will decide Britain’s broadband future

The outcome of next year’s General Election will go a long way to deciding the future of British broadband, according to industry experts. Speaking at a Westminster eForum on the future of Britain’s internet, the chief executive of the Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG) said that broadband policy is split down party lines.

On the one hand, you have Labour’s “industrial activism” which plans to subsidise universal access to 2Mbits/sec broadband and use the 50p “broadband tax” to pay for next-generation networks. On the other, you have the Conservatives’ “market activism”, which will leave the expansion of the broadband network to market forces.

Either way, broadband policy will remain up in the air until the General Election. “We’ve got to accept that there’s considerable uncertainty going forward, especially for the next few months,” BSG chief executive Antony Walker claimed.

That opinion was echoed by Matt Yardley, partner at IT consultants Analysys Mason. “[Lord] Carter’s idea of a fund [for next-generation broadband] was pre-emptive and unusual, but there’s some doubt at this stage whether it’s going to come into being,” he said.

Government-funded broadband

Whoever wins the election, many experts believe that public money will be necessary to bring high-speed broadband to the entire country.

Walker claimed that BSG research showed that the industry alone would only reach 60% of the country with next-generation networks. “As you get into more rural areas, investment gets a lot harder,” he said.

BT painted an even more pessimistic picture. “Investment in fibre is risky and expensive,” Tim O’Sullivan, director of public affairs at BT said. BT has committed to bring fibre to 40% of the country by 2012, but O’Sullivan claimed that there was “no commercial case beyond 40% at present.”

He said the politicians had to make a stark choice. “It boils down to a policy decision,” O’Sullivan said. “Do we as a country want to push fibre to go faster and further than it would naturally? If we do, some kind of financial levy will be required.”

Waste of money

BT rival TalkTalk claims that spending public money on next-generation broadband would be both wasteful and damaging. “We think it’s absolute nonsense,” said the company’s executive director of strategy, Andrew Heaney, referring to the proposed broadband tax. “The last thing you need is the Government wading in and saying ‘we know best'”.

Heaney claimed the Digital Britain team approached the Treasury for £1bn worth of funding for next-gen broadband before the publication of its summer report, but was turned down. “The Treasury didn’t think it was a good use of public money,” he said. “If the Treasury doesn’t think it was a good use of public money, why is it when financed out of the public’s pocket?”

Heaney argued that the broadband tax would discourage companies from investing in high-speed rural broadband, while they waited for public funds to become available


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.”


UK Broadband ISPs Sound Opposition to New Illegal File Sharing Laws

The UK Internet Service Providers Association ( ISPA ) and broadband ISP TalkTalk ( The Carphone Warehouse , Tiscali , AOL etc. ) have both come out in strong opposition to some of yesterdays Digital Economy Bill measures, which have been designed to tackle illegal downloading.

The Bill proposes that the Government can introduce new measures to punish people they think are infringing copyright without having to prove their case in court. This so-called secondary legislation appears to side-step any debate, oversight or public scrutiny. Both are particularly concerned that the proposals grant far too much control to the Secretary of State, who will have the power to make specific recommendations on costs and impose an obligation on ISPs to use technical sanctions. The ISPA believes that an independent body would be a fairer way to assess these factors.

ISPA Secretary General, Nicholas Lansman, said:

“ISPA is extremely disappointed by aspects of the proposals to address illicit filesharing. This legislation is being fast-tracked by the Government and will do little to address the underlying problem. Rather than focusing blindly on enforcement, the Government should be asking rightsholders to reform the licensing framework so that legal content can be distributed online to consumers in a way that they are clearly demanding.”

ISPs believe that to reduce illegal filesharing, music and film fans must be encouraged back to legal services through education and by making content available in a form and at a price that people find acceptable. TalkTalk’s own research shows that over 85% of people think there is not enough legal music and film content available on the Internet at a fair price. Dunstone has again reiterated his promise to only release customer details to rights holders following a court order, although ironically yesterdays Bill promised that details would only be released to copyright owners for further action “after obtaining a court order“. TalkTalk added that they would refuse any request to cut-off customer accounts and take legal action to protect their users.

Meanwhile the ISPA has also raised concerns about the allocation of cost. Consistent with the principle of beneficiary pays, ISPA rejects an apportioning of costs and believes that rights holders should shoulder this burden including reimbursement of ISPs’ reasonable costs. Presently the copyright owners will only pay the cost of notification letters. Both TalkTalk and the ISPA also oppose all of the new technical measures, which include the ability to slow a customers connection, block illegal sites and services or even cut-off user accounts, and have called for them to be dropped from the bill. Sadly we fear this is highly unlikely to happen as the government has proven unwilling to listen. It should be noted that ISPs do appear to support the notification / letter warning system.