Walker, Antony Malcolm Taylor and Vicky Read (2007, undated) Pipe Dreams? Prospects for next generation broadband deployment in the UK, Broadband Stakeholder Group
Recommendation 1– Define the public value of broadband networksIt will take years for a complete evidence base to emerge to assess the full economicand social value of broadband. However, it should be possible now to define a frameworkto assess the potential public value of broadband, i.e., to identify the factors that should be taken into account when assessing broadband’s impact on society and the economy. Once such an approach is agreed, evidence can be added in as it emerges and a more accurate model developed for assessing the public value of broadband. This should be a collaborative initiative involving industry, academics, the DTI and Treasury.
Recommendation 2– Monitor demand for bandwidthAs a new wave of bandwidth intensive services come online over the next 12-24 months, close attention should be paid to the actual growth in demand for bandwidth by households and businesses both in the UK and internationally. Various approaches could be used to develop data in this area. However, this information should be made publicly available to help inform decision making by stakeholders across the value chain. This should be coordinated by Ofcom.
Recommendation 3– Set a benchmarked target for 2012The UK must have a communications infrastructure that enables it to compete andprosper in the global knowledge economy. The government and Ofcom should, therefore,benchmark the UK’s communications infrastructure with our global competitors.Government should establish a target to ensure that by 2012 the UK remains in theupper quartile of OECD nations in terms of the range of broadband delivered services towhich its people have ready access (Quality) and the proportion of the population served by broadband (Reach). These two aspects of quality and reach should be defined through a basket of metrics, similar to the approach used to define the competitiveness and extensiveness targets in 2001. This work should be undertaken by government, in collaboration with stakeholders, and updates should be published bi-annually.
Recommendation 4– Explore alternative commercial models to support network investmentFurther work should be undertaken by stakeholders to debate and explore alternativecommercial models to support network investment. Good solutions need to be foundthat align the interests of operators with upstream content and service providers andend consumers whilst mitigating concerns about blocking or degrading third partyapplications and services.
Recommendation 5– Develop a regulatory framework for next generation broadband
Discussion on the regulatory challenges posed by next generation access (NGA) networks has only just begun in the UK. Ofcom opened up the debate with its discussion document published in November 2006. This document raised a broad range of complex issues, which need to be explored in more detail. Further informal discussions should be undertaken in advance of a full public consultation by Ofcom. However, Ofcom needs to set out the principles of its regulatory approach to NGA within a 12 month time period, if the inhibiting effects of regulatory uncertainty on investment are to be avoided.
Recommendation 6– Explore options for access to passive infrastructure
As an input into Ofcom’s NGA preconsultation, a more detailed review should be undertaken into the options for access to alternative passive infrastructure in the UK. This work should be taken forward by stakeholders.
Recommendation 7– Identify models for efficient public sector intervention
While the BSG recommends that the public sector should forbear from intervening topromote NGA deployment at this stage, it is highly likely that public sector support will be required in areas where persistent market failure is most likely. Building on the BestPractice Guide published by the DTI and Ofcom in February 2007, further work shouldbe undertaken to identify and experiment in the development of efficient and effectivemodels for public sector interventions in collaboration with commercial stakeholders,government and the regulator.
Recommendation 8– Remove non-sector specific regulatory barriers
The deployment of next generation access infrastructure will inevitably require new civilinfrastructure and will involve significant new street works across the country. DTI should work together with relevant departments and public sector bodies and the industry to develop streamlined approaches to NGA related street works and planning issues tominimise both the disruption caused and the cost to operators of these works. Thegovernment should also review the nondomestic rating applied to optical fibre. Thecurrent approach provides a strong financial disincentive to the use of deployed fibre.
Recommendation 9– Review universal service/universal access
The current universal service directive refers only to functional internet access. However, as the adoption of broadband continues to accelerate, this definition is starting to lookoutdated. Ofcom’s consultation on universal services should address both the definition of universal service and future approaches to funding universal service/ universal access.