Saturday, April 18, 2009

British Government Announces Broadband Plan, Catches Up with the Colonies 04/18/09 British Prime Minister Gordon Brown yesterday announced that his Labour Government will quickly file a new national broadband plan aimed at delivering universal broadband access to all citizens (or is that subjects?) in the UK.

A published report in the Guardian suggests that Labour's broadband plan will be included in legislation to be filed in Parliament calling for "sweeping changes to the regulatory regime for television, radio and regional newspaper companies, allowing them to merge to meet the challenges of the internet and other digital technologies."

The broadband aspects of the Government's planning, are in the charge of Labour communications minister, Lord Carter, who will release a report in July suggesting how "universal broadband access" will be reached. Clearly the British plan differs from the Obama Administration's broadband agenda in the US in that Brown's Government is simultaneously addressing media cross-ownership, and digital intellectual property rights.

Further demonstrating the distinctions between British and American politics, UK tech blogger Zedian reports that "...UK opposition leader David Cameron waded into the debate pledging a "fiber to the home" (FTTH) programme within a decade if the Conservatives get into power...".

As Brown and his ministers work to release the plan this year, broadband policy in the Mother Country is playing catch up with that of at least three of its Commonwealth Nations. As Ovum's David Kennedy reported from Sydney here earlier this week, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore are all fully engaged in developing quasi-state supported next generation networks, each of which will include FTTx access networks. Lightwave's Steven Hardy posted drill-down details on a blog post of April 8 entitled "More info on Australia's NBN".

How should American policy makers look at the emerging British model, or that of other developed nations rolling out national broadband networks (NBNs)? We see the impact on American thinking as twofold, albeit both somewhat speculative:

1. To the extent that many of the developed nations are moving toward NBN frameworks, each having some degree of state subsidies, mandated high capacity bandwidth requirements, and universal access for all, there will be less chance that the US will return to a strictly private sector and fully deregulated model. As NBNs come to be seen as prerequisites of global competitiveness, the American 'private sector only' model will be morphed into a public / private national broadband model.

2. Secondly, two definitional characteristics of the NBNs reported on by David Kennedy are that they are built around "wholesale" business models, and full FTTx deployments. As NBNs become more of the norm in the economies of our global trading partners, an American approach to "open access" across both the backbone and fiber-rich access portions of the network will emerge.
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