UK in the Internet slow lane

Despite Government claims, the Digital Britain Interim Report lacks vision, neglects consumer interests and risks leaving the UK in the Internet "slow lane", according to evidence submitted today by Consumer Focus, the independent watchdog.

Philip Cullum, Deputy Chief Executive Consumer Focus said: "We currently have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to use the digital revolution to address issues of social exclusion and disadvantage, and to give the UK economy a powerful competitive edge.

"The Digital Britain Interim report is grounded in the past, focuses on protecting vested interests and old ways of working and living. But it's not too late for Government to put this right and set a positive and innovative digital strategy for the UK."

While Consumer Focus welcomes Digital Britain's proposal to update the universal service commitment - which will help give everyone access to broadband - issues of access have not been addressed by the report.

Currently significant sections of the population are limited in their access to IT by costs and by the lack of knowledge/understanding. The majority of this group are not working or in semi-skilled or unskilled manual jobs.

The prohibitive cost of equipment, software and broadband services and the lack of knowledge and understanding of IT will reinforce existing patterns of social exclusion if they are not addressed.

The Government's apparent unwillingness to consider a minimum universal broadband speed above 2 Mb by 2012 is also a major concern, particularly when other European countries such as Germany and Sweden already achieve average speeds of 4.8 Mb and 7.4 Mb respectively and Finland has set a 100Mb target.

Consumer Focus believes that a 2 Mb speed will not support a future of digital innovation and will inhibit Britain's digital economy as consumers find themselves unable to take advantage of digital services and products considered standard in other countries.

Consumer Focus is calling on Government to use Digital Britain as an opportunity to tackle issues of social exclusion and considers the Interim Report to be overly concerned with the needs of industry. Consumer Focus looks forward to the final Digital Britain report focusing on the other part of the market equation, the consumer, and setting out a clear strategy with timelines, targets and responsibilities.

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Source: Consumer Focus

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