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Another look at broadband speeds

The government is apparently so concerned about being left in the slow lane of the information superhighway that it has appointed a fresh inspection of the path to next-generation broadband, even while the current one is still on the track, writes Ben Fenton .

Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator, is already conducting a consultation on issues such as how the cable and telecoms industries can invest more than £1bn in upgrading the ageing copper-wire infrastructure. Only this will enable the UK to compete with countries such as France and Germany, which are well ahead in the provision of high-speed internet access.

Virgin Media is already discussing ways of rolling out 50-megabit-per-second broadband on its cable network, while British Telecom believes that with a new-town development, such as Ebbsfleet in Kent, speeds of 100 mbps are achievable. The fastest speed currently available in the UK is 20 mbps.

But without nationwide access, some analysts are warning that UK media industries will be unable to exploit the commercial potential of downloading in the music, film and television industries.

The review announced in yesterday's strategy document will be led by Francesco Caio, former chief executive of Cable & Wireless, and is said to be "complementary" to Ofcom's study.

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