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The Committee strongly supports the Government's focus on the digital economy as set out in July 2009 in qDigital Britainq (the Carter report, Cm. 7650, ISBN 9780101765022). The United Kingdom's competitiveness is, to a significant effect, dependent on its telecommunications network, and the Committee has a number of concerns about the policies the Government has adopted to achieve its ambitions. Digital Britain is a vital part of public policy which will define the United Kingdom's telecommunications networks for years to come, and so there must be a full-time Minister dedicated to the issue. The Committee agrees with the Government's proposals for a Universal Service Commitment of 2Mbps as an appropriate and achievable ambition. But the Government has not defined what 2Mbps will mean in practice. A clear definition is vital for early delivery of the Universal Service Commitment. The report supports a swift roll-out of Next Generation Access (NGA) networks across the country, but cautions the Government about too much intervention which could distort the market and not allow time for technological solutions to extend over the whole country. Policies should instead encourage investment in the NGA market. The Government should consider a reduction or temporary removal of business rates on fibre optic cable and removal of barriers to access to the various existing duct networks. Financing of the intervention through a 50 pence levy on fixed telecommunications lines is not supported, the Committee viewing it as regressive and poorly targeted. Given the economic situation, digital inclusion should be the priority over NGA.Failing that, the next best option is a short-haul microwave radio link. ... We recommend that third party access to BT fibre or BT duct is mandated in those areas outside the existing cable TV footprint on the same terms and conditions as BT supplies itself. ... Our investigations reveal that BTa#39;s charges for connecting a cabinet to a customer are up to 3 times the equivalent ... the notice period for certain work to up six months rather than seven days or one month under the previous regime.

Author: Great Britain: Parliament: House of Commons: Business, Innovation and Skills Committee
Publisher:The Stationery Office - 2010-02-23

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