New broadband policy focus urged
The Government's broadband policy has become "preoccupied" with delivering certain speeds to consumers and needs greater focus on access to the internet through a national broadband network, a report by peers has concluded.
The House of Lords Communications Committee warned of the "spectre of a widening digital divide", stating there was a "very real risk" that some people and businesses were being left behind.
In their report, Broadband For All - An Alternative Vision, the peers said progress was being made in providing enhanced broadband provision.
However, UK broadband policy, rather than being target-driven, could support a national broadband network allowing people to "connect in different ways according to their needs and demands".
The report stated: "The delivery of certain speeds should not be the guiding principle; what is important is the long-term assurance that, as new internet applications emerge, everyone will be able to benefit, from inhabitants of inner cities to the remotest areas of the UK."
The report recommended national planning for a "communications network of local, regional, national, and internet exchanges where different operators can site equipment and exchange traffic, all linked by ample optical fibre that is open to use by competing providers".
Committee chairman and Conservative peer Lord Inglewood said: "The current strategy is based around providing certain levels of speed across the country and we're not convinced at all that that is the right place to start thinking about a policy and a programme for rolling out broadband infrastructure."
He added: "What we need to do is to find a system, it seems to us, that enables people to get what they want and pay accordingly."
Labour spokesman for innovation, science and digital infrastructure Chi Onwurah said: "Since this Government has been in power we have seen no progress in broadband services for large parts of the country. Ministers need to do more to support the UK's digital future, and today's report highlights the ongoing concerns which Labour has raised that customers and businesses will be left behind.
"To boost jobs and growth, help get us out of the recession made in Downing Street and create an economy which works for working people, we need a compelling vision for our broadband future. Instead, we have no communications Green Paper, no 4G services, and no universal broadband. The Tory-led Government is failing to tackle the growing superfast digital divide."