Digital UK: the tea-break guide

Only if you've been locked in a room with no internet connection can you have missed yesterday's launch of the Digital Britain report. But rather than read 238 pages of government speak, find out what you need to know in the time it takes to down a cuppa, with Revolution's tea-break guide to Digital Britain.

The government is promising 2MBps broadband for every household by 2012 but how does Britain rank in the world on average broadband speeds?

Britain ranks 21st in broadband speeds globally behind the likes of Hungary, Slovakia, Iceland and Portugal. Japan leads the way with an average broadband speed north of 60 MBps followed by Korea and Finland, according to the Information Technology and Innovation Fund. Currently 89 per cent of UK homes have 2MBps broadband while 2.75 million homes don't. Unsurprisingly The Outer Hebrides and mid-Wales have the worst connection problems.

A tax on all your broadband. Where will this 50p tax go?

A 50p tax on all fixed lines will be introducted in 2010 and raise up to £175m to help hit the target of universal 2 MBps broadband by 2012. Lord Carter, the report's author, justified this by saying that broadband prices have remained steady for years due to a competitive marketplace, so the £6 a year tax will be easier for households to swallow.

Broadband on the Tube and trains - is it going to happen?

It's a bit woolly at the moment. The government will consider whether or not to include broadband as a condition when handing franchises to train companies. It says it needs to speak to Network Rail on this first. The report suggests London mayor Boris Johnson and his chums at TfL come up with a plan for broadband on the Tube. The government says it's willing to offer help if it's not commercially viaible.

Lord Carter has taken a firm line on digital piracy, giving Ofcom the role of enforcing ISPs to take action against illegal file sharers. How much of a problem is illegal filesharing?

More than 7.3 million illegal file sharers will cost the British music industry up to £200m in 2009, according to the BPI, the trade body for the music industry. Under new rules Ofcom will force ISPs to notify alleged infringers and release their details to rights holders who can then take legal action. ISPs will also be encouraged to block sites and limit bandwidth.

What on earth does this mean: "The Technology Strategy Board will lead and co-ordinate the necessary investment for Next Generation Digital Test Beds and has allocated an initial budget of up to £10m for this purpose."

The government wants to help people who are testing new online business models. It wants to bring them together and will invest up to £10m to aid research into areas including - ways to make money from online content (eg micropayments), ways to encourage people not to illegally download instead of sending them to prison, new security ideas to build more trust online.

Where does the BBC fit in to all of this?

The government reckons that there's going to be a reduction in local news across all media due to the reduction in ad money available. The Digital TV switchover scheme is funded by 3.5 per cent of the licence fee. The report recommends that following switchover in 2012, this 3.5 per cent should be up for grabs by other organisations seeking to meet local needs. It's going to run some test schemes before then with the current unspecified 'underspend' in the Digital TV switchover budget.

What's the deal with Channel 4?

The report states that Channel 4 will move from its original remit of being 'the open broadcasting authority' to the 'open new media authority'. Details are thin on this though, and given that Channel 4 still has to run its TV channels, it's unclear how this will come about. There's a further nugget of information that reveals that when 4oD was a paid-for service charging 99p a show, it only got 1000 views a week. That's why it moved to an ad-funded model.

Martha Lane Fox has been appointed as Britain's first digital inclusion champion. But what has she been up to since launching back in 1998?

After collecting a reported £18 million from the sale of Lane Fox, known as 'Fast Lane Foxy' to friends, has continued to launch start-up ventures. In 2005 she founded Lucky Voice, the karaoke bar chain with a flagship branch in Soho and then set up with co-founder Brent Hoberman. In 2007 she became a non-executive director at Marks & Spencer and holds the same position at Channel 4. She is also a patron of legal action charity Reprieve and Camfed, a charity that fights the spread of HIV and AIDs in Africa.

Jargon quoter: impress your colleagues by relaying some of the best government 'e-jargon' known to man.

Best word: The government says we have become a leading economy in terms of 'e-readiness'. Prizes for telling us what that means*.

Best sentence: "Work is well under way to create a PSN to supersede the overlapping and duplicative patchwork quilt or departmental or sectoral networks." Someone has an exciting job.

Runner up: "The FCO's current OCEAN procurement will be the first to adopt the PSN concept." Indeed.

Here's some more serious stuff on Digital Britain.

Here's the full 238 pages.

*There are actually no prizes for telling us what that means.

by Andrew McCormick, 17-Jun-09, 12:45

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