CMA tells government to invest in ICT through recession

The UK will trail behind other advanced countries if it fails to put ICT at the heart of its economic recovery, an industry body has warned.

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The UK will trail behind other advanced countries if it fails to put ICT at the heart of its economic recovery, an industry body has warned.

The rollout of high-performance and universal broadband is vital to the future of British businesses, according to the Communications Management Association (CMA).

The CMA, which is part of the British Computing Society and represents business users of communication technologies, networks and services, has launched a five-point action plan manifesto aimed at helping the UK out of the recession.

The manifesto calls upon the current and future governments to put ICT at the centre of economic recovery in order to "breathe life into UK enterprise and the national economy".

Launching the manifesto, Carolyn Kimber, CMA’s chairman warned that disjointed government policies, a weak regulator and a negative, lethargic approach to local provision of infrastructure and services could leave British competitiveness, enterprise and innovation trailing behind other G8 countries.

The first action in the five point plan called for better converged policy making from the top echelons of government. "ICT policy-making is spread between many government departments and lacks continuity and stability in ministerial appointments. Ofcom, the independent regulator is undertaking activities best left to government, is also visibly under-resourced and over-stretched," said the CMA.

Number two on its list was a call for a new Communications Act. The CMA said the current Communications Act does not adequately recognise the requirements of the business user. The CMA called on change in the law to provide Ofcom with a greater remit to help businesses and give fair recognition of the interdependencies between citizens and the needs of commerce.

The CMA also wants "universal access to next generation broadband", which it said would ensure "real, effective and sustainable competition in the supply of ICT goods and services". The CMA expressed disappointment that today’s broadband is "still not the major life-changing experience that Lord Currie envisaged several years ago".

"We need to take action now to introduce true broadband access network across the country. We must also introduce policies that are pro-competition and avoid a return to monopolies in both infrastructure and services."

Fourth on the list was an improvement to mobile communications to provide "better than 95 percent geographical coverage". The CMA issued a warning to Ofcom that its recovery and re-allocation of the 2G spectrum to 3G services "will not improve the already inadequate national coverage".

"3G operators have not met their coverage requirements imposed as part of the auction process. Only national roaming of basic services will result in 95 percent UK-wide geographical coverage as well as leading to increased rather than the reduced competition which Ofcom has suggested, said the CMA.

Finally, the group wants a "single European Market for ICT".

"CMA seeks government reassurances that it will, over the next five years, actively support and encourage the European Commission in its strategy towards harmonising a single market in ICT goods and services across all 27 Member States."

The group launched the manifesto during its annual conference in London this week, in front of both industry and government.

Commenting on the recent Interim ‘Digital Britain’ Report , Kimber added: "it is a long-delayed step in the right direction and implementation of its access and infrastructure proposals deserves unqualified, all-party support.”

She also referred to the commercial and societal imperatives of investing in what US President Obama’s has called “the digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together”.

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