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Will Digital Britain ever get off the ground?

Posted by putsimply on 27th August 2009

The Digital Britain report is turning into a laughing stock. It was supposed to be a visionary report outlining Britain’s digital future and how these services would be provided, but it turned out to promise broadband speeds a fraction of those being delivered in the rest of the western world and has now been sidetracked by the debate over file sharing.

The one over-riding conclusion from both parts of this debate is that the UK government doesn’t understand the internet, the way it works, the way people use it or the way the technology behind it works. Trying to force modern broadband speeds down outdated copper is like trying to kit out a mini to race in Formula One. Yes you can make it go very quickly compared to its previous speed, but nowhere near quick enough and it will soon get left behind by the rest. The clients and journalists we have spoken to about this are of the same opinion as most of the industry, the UK needs fibre rolled out and it needs to aim for higher than a pathetic 2Mb/s.

The latest row over file sharing is just bewildering. I’m sure the fact that Lord Mandelson has spent time on holiday with the anti-file sharing community is nothing to do with it, but suggesting we cut people off makes little sense. On one hand the report describes broadband as almost a basic human right, and now they’re talking about taking it away if someone using the connection downloads a few songs.

The report needs the support of the ISP and wider technology community – and so far it has alienated the ISPs with the proposed bill to cut off file sharers, and alienated the wider technology community by failing to deliver the fibre infrastructure this country needs. The ISPs will have to do a lot of work to monitor and identify illegal file sharers and then cutting them off will lose them money – so where is the motivation?

I saw a great comment on a blog the other week that summed it up perfectly -“If someone sends a stolen DVD through the post, do we expect Royal Mail to take action?”

Yes illegal file sharing does cost the entertainment industry a lot of money, but there are much better way to deal with it than to go around cutting off people’s internet connection when there’s a good chance they did nothing wrong.

The government needs to re-think the whole report and stop getting sidetracked by one relatively minor topic, otherwise this report will never get taken seriously and the UK will fall even further behind the rest of the world.