Every home should have access to 2Mbps broadband by 2012 under new plans proposed by the Government.
The pledge is one of 22 proposals forming part of communication minister Lord Carter’s Digital Britain report, which was commissioned to outline the future of digital technology in the UK.
Fast broadband for all
The report’s interim findings propose to scrap BT’s obligation to provide every home with access to a telephone line and replace it with a requirement to provide broadband.
This ‘universal service commitment’ would aim to ensure everyone had fast enough internet access to watch videos online.
Find out how to watch TV online in our online TV guide.
Superfast internet access
Before publication of the final report later this year, the Government will decide whether public money should be used to help create a new superfast broadband network for the UK.
Ministers are concerned that internet service providers (ISPs) may not have the inclination or finance needed for such a project, which would need substantial investment in new infrastructure.
Superfast broadband of up to 50Mbps is currently only offered by Virgin Media in limited parts of the UK, although BT last year announced plans to roll out its own fast BT broadband network to 10 million UK homes by 2012.
Average broadband speeds
Andy Burnham, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, said Lord Carter’s 22-point plan would help the country reap the economic and social benefits of the digital age.
Outlining the report to the House of Commons, Mr Burnham said: ‘The challenge now is this: how to build the networks and infrastructure that help businesses and consumers get the most from the digital age; and funding the quality content that enhances our culture and economy.’
But opposition politicians were united in their criticism of proposals for two megabit broadband, pointing out that national average internet speed was already 3.6Mbps.
For tips on increasing your broadband speed, check out our online guide to boosting your broadband speed.
Illegal downloads clamp down
A new organisation to deal with illegal copying and sharing of music and films over the internet is also proposed.
The rights agency would be funded by a levy on internet service providers (ISPs) and the music and film industry.
ISPs would have to tell customers their activities were illegal, and collect information on repeat offenders.
This information would have to be passed on to rights-holders – film and music companies – on receipt of a court order.
A plan to transfer existing FM radio stations to digital broadcasting, known as DAB, was outlined in the report.
Lord Carter said setting an ‘artificial’ date for the end of FM broadcasting would be unhelpful.
The switchover would happen once DAB coverage was comparable to that offered by FM, and when half of radio listening was done over the DAB network. The Government hopes these criteria will be met by 2015.
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