The UK government is to invest £200 million (€235 million) to ensure all Brits have access to 2 Megabits per second broadband coverage as part of its blueprint for a globally competitive digital economy under the Digital Britain report.
Under the raft of recommendations the high speed universal broadband access provisions will be implemented by 2012 and funded largely courtesy of the BBC’s public license fees.
Communications Minister Lord Stephen Carter said most of the funding would come from surplus in the BBC’s digital switchover scheme fund.
Meanwhile, a levy of 50 pence a month would be imposed on all copper phone lines- a potential cash cow of £175 million, which would go towards broadband development in commercially unviable areas.
Reaction from the BBC was less than positive with BBC Trust chairman Michael Lyons telling Paidcontent.org, “the license fee must not become a slush fund to be dipped into at will ... to help fund the political or commercial concerns of the day... The Trust will not sit quietly by and watch this happen.”
The BBC has stated that it wants the Digital Switchover Help Fund credit to be returned to license payers as a rebate rather than comprise an investment for broadband and new regional news consortia.
In other boosts to the telecommunications industry mobile operators will be allowed to keep 3G spectrum indefinitely if they begin building networks capable of up to 50Mbps.
Anti- piracy was also strongly highlighted with regulator Ofcom charged with implementing a program to encourage the reduction of piracy.
The regulator will introduce a notification of unlawful activity and, for repeat-infringers, a court-based process of identity release and civil action.
The report claims that “piracy of intellectual property for profit is theft and will be pursued as such through the criminal law.” For ISPs the onus will be on them to police customers with responsibilities to gather data on alleged filesharers and notify them that their actions are illegal. Repeat offenders could also see bans on access to certain sites, and throttling of download speeds.
Virgin Media CEO Neil Berkett responded “commercial solutions are needed to change consumer behavior..and you need to be able to show some thought leadership.
“You need to change the business model...and to change consumer behavior you need more carrot and less stick.”