MPs condemn Digital Britain 2Mbps broadband promise

A group of MPs has slammed the government's plan to bring 2Mbps broadband to every UK resident, claiming it has "no clear definition of what it means".


A group of MPs has slammed the government's plan to bring 2Mbps broadband to every UK resident by 2012, claiming the government has "no clear definition of what it [2Mbps broadband] means".

The Universal Service Commitment, which was set out in the Digital Britain report, promised every household in Britain to have access to broadband speeds of at least 2 megabits per second (2Mbps) by 2012. The report's proposals form the basis of the Digital Economy Bill, which is currently being examined by the House of Lords and is expected to come into force later this year.

Stephen Timms, Minister for Digital Britain, was asked by the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee to define the 2Mbps promise.

"We will give virtually everybody access to a line capable of delivering 2Mbps," he said.

"It should look and feel like a 2Mbps commitment as someone in areas served by those markets would understand it."

However, Timms then added there was no guarantee everyone would receive an actual 2Mbps connection.

"There is a degree of variability about that, but the service that is provided will be capable of delivering 2Mbps."

But a report from the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee has rubbished the broadband proposals. According to the Committee, the response was "not a helpful statement" and someone whose use is restricted to the evenings would have a very different feel of 2Mbps to someone whose use was confined to the mornings.

"We are concerned that the Government is committed to a Universal Service Commitment of 2Mbps, with a budget of £200 million, without a clear definition of what it means," the Committee said.

"We believe that the Universal Service Commitment should deliver a minimum 2Mbps under normal circumstances, to all users."

The government revealed last year it plans to pay for the 2Mbps roll-out using some of the funds collected via a 'broadband tax' that will see Brits with a telephone line charged £6 a year to fund the roll-out of 2Mbps internet access.

The Committee also slammed the tax, saying it was an "ill-directed charge".

"It will place a disproportionate cost on a majority who will not, or are unable to, reap the benefits of that charge."

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