The UK Government’s Communications Minister, Ed Vaizey has ruled out the introduction of a legal Universal Service Obligation (USO) for broadband in Britain. This revelation emerges alongside Ed Vaizey confirming that BT is officially bidding on all eight of the currently active superfast broadband procurement contracts.
BT’s move smells of both ambition and canniness; depending on one’s interpretation. The news should hardly come as a surprise however, given that they have already secured contractual rights for both Lancashire and Rutland, and look set to do so in Wales and the Highlands and Islands in Scotland.
Below is a list of the eight contracts available:
- Hereford and Gloucester
- North Yorkshire
- Lancashire, Blackpool, Blackburn with Darwen
- Highlands and Islands
The agreement of all eight contracts should be sorted by the end of the month. The question that then begs to be asked, is whether BT are efficient enough for them to take upon the responsibility of installing superfast broadband in any of these regions.
A recent broadband speed test has concluded that Virgin provide the fastest internet speeds in the UK. This is measured in download, upload and basic connectivity speeds. Virgin’s success is based upon the usage of coaxial cables linking to the crucial ‘last kilometre’. BT meanwhile still merely relies on the use of fibre optic cables throughout all points of their connection process, and it is this very reason that causes their service to lag behind Virgin’s.
However, BT remain intent on providing superfast broadband to their customers, and it is this drive and determination that raises confidence in the network being able to provide a speedy service to these regions. In fact, BT recently announced the doubling of the download and upload speeds in their Infinity Package Contracts; which though still fall short of Virgin Media’s main packages, definitely signal strong intent and a step in the right direction.
Meanwhile, the prohibition of a legal USO in Britain is probably a step in the right direction. This will ensure no single telecommunications network secures a monopoly in the UK, based on anything but superior quality service. It will also challenge network providers to keep trying to up their speeds and services in the broadband speed race.
A number or reports and one consultation document on the topic of Digital Inclusion were published on Friday 24th October 2008 by the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG).
There is also aÂ discussion forum to discuss the main themes of the Digital Inclusion Action Plan.
Links are on the CLG website but replicated here for convenience:
I’ve posted a presentation to Slideshare that I gave last month as a keynote presentation for an audience primarily made up of local government staff. The presentation illustrates the growing velocity and volume of on-line connections being created in the wake of Web 2.0 and the prevalent demographics of those considered to be ‘connected’ and those who are not. I was trying to raise the awareness of the audience that being part of the on-line digital community (and in particular social networking) was becoming an increasing factor in how we evolve and survive as human beings, and that those who fail to grasp this will find themselves ever more isolated â€“ cut off from the networks that are sharing, adapting and updating knowledge to create value.
However, It is recognised that not everyone is digitally disconnected or socially disengaged by choice, but interestingly, it’s not necessarily the socio-economically deprived that make up the majority of this group; age demographics play a big part, with Baby Boomers and Generation X (i.e. all those born between 1942 and 1965) being the least likely to engage in social networking. These demographic groups make up the majority of staff working in local authorities and this presents a challenge to local government employers in how to accomodate significantly varied working parctices and work-life expections between these groups and Generation Y (or the Net Generation).
The presentation concludes with a look at the issues around consultation with citizens and questions whether enough is being done to engage with the digitally excluded, particulary where vast sums of government (i.e. tax payer’s) money is being invested in on-line services and on-line consultation.Â In other words, digital exclusion can also mean dis-empowerment and dis-engagement.Â Is the technology (Web 2.0, Web 3.0) widening the divide?
As always, comments/views are welcome.
I will be presenting at the Limehouse software user’s group today, 10th June, on the topic of Web 2.0 and the issues that local authorities face in bridging the digital. I will post my slides to Slideshare after the event.