Man uses wireless broadband on his laptop

Lords report criticises UK broadband focus

UK broadband policy needs greater focus on access to the internet through a national broadband network, a Lords report has said.

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 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 said.

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".

“The government is quite right to make broadband a policy priority – barely an aspect of our lives isn’t touched in some way by the internet, and developments look set to continue apace in the future," committee chairman Lord Inglewood said.

"A whole host of services will increasingly be delivered via the internet - including critical public services - and without better provision for everyone in the UK this will mean that people are marginalised or excluded altogether.

"If broadcast services move to be delivered via the internet for example, as we believe they may be, then key moments in national life such as the Olympics could be inaccessible to communities lacking a better communications infrastructure.

“Our communications network must be regarded as a strategic, national asset. The government’s strategy lacks just that – strategy.

"The complex issues involved were not thought through from first principle and it is far from clear that the government’s policy will deliver the broadband infrastructure that we need – for profound social and economic reasons – for the decades to come.”

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