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Budget 09 and Digital Britain

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Issued 22 APRIL 2009

Today's Budget confirms Government plans to deliver a Universal Service in broadband at 2 megabits per second by 2012. The Government will also consult with the BBC Trust on how the emerging under-spend from the Digital Switchover Help Scheme can be drawn on to fund roll-out and take-up.

Budget '09 also underlines the Government's commitment to helping business take full advantage of the opportunities offered in the creative industries by announcing a review of Ofcom's powers and duties to ensure it can strike the right balance between supporting competition and encouraging investment.

Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson said:

"I often stress the need for bridges to our economic future - this is one of the most important. And I believe there's a clear, strategic role for government to help make it a reality."

"We need to make sure that transformational technologies like broadband are genuinely available to virtually everyone. And we need government action to help drive that change and ensure UK firms have the capacity to compete for the economic opportunities it brings."

Minister for Communications, Telecoms and Broadcasting, Stephen Carter said:

"The UK economy needs a digital infrastructure and it needs higher levels of connectivity and greater levels of participation.

He added:

"The Digital Britain commitments in today's Budget will establish a 2mbps Universal Service as a baseline for both Next Generation Networks and for the next generation delivery of public services."

At 2mbps, internet users are guaranteed a quality of broadband capable of offering a wide range of applications, including the majority of public services and video-rich content such as the BBC iPlayer.

Providing Universal Service in broadband and promoting take-up will help boost learning and skills development and drive innovation within the creative industries. No country in the world is currently offering a Universal Service in broadband at a speed this high.

The Government has consulted a design group made up of network experts on the best and most cost -effective ways of delivering a universal service via a range of solutions, including wired and mobile networks. Their conclusions, which will inform the detailed scheme design to be published in the Digital Britain Final report, suggest that for at least some groups of currently underserved users a leap-frog to next generation superfast broadband may be the most economical solution.

The Budget also approves 'Digital Region', a 100 million project led by Yorkshire Forward, which will roll out next generation broadband across the South Yorkshire region, stimulating economic activity through high-speed connectivity.

Notes

* Digital Britain is the government's vision of an economy and society where core working activities are based around knowledge, skills and information. The report represents an ambitious and strategic plan to accelerate growth in the digital industries and cement the UK's position as a world leader for innovation, investment and quality

* The interim report was published in January and set out five key objectives for achieving that vision:

To ensure and support:

1. Upgraded wired, wireless and broadcast networks

2. A dynamic investment climate for digital content and services

3. Diverse sources of high-quality UK content for UK users

4. Fairness or opportunity, accessibility and universality and promotion of digital skills and literacy

5. Network and user capability to allow efficient digital public service

* The report made 22 recommendations for delivering these objectives, including:

- ACTION 17: We will develop plans for a digital Universal Service Commitment to be effective by 2012, delivered by a mixture of fixed and mobile, wired and wireless means. Subject to further study of the costs and benefits, we will set out our plans for the level of service which we believe should be universal. We anticipate this consideration will include options up to 2mbps

* Currently 99% of households can access some level of broadband and six in 10 take it. But at 2mbps the availability drops to about 85% of the population, leaving 3.8million homes with slower speeds or no broadband connectivity at all

* Terms of reference to the review of Ofcom's powers and duties will be announced in due course


About the Author

Crown Copyright. Material taken from the BERR- Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform replacing DTI - Department for Trade and Industry. Reproduced under the terms and conditions of the Click-Use Licence.


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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2009-04-22 17:15:28 in Tax Articles

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