Citing inclusion and civic participation as trumping private profit, the British Broadcasting Corporation is making a case for government “intervention” in the broadband market to ensure universal access to affordable, high-speed Internet services.
In doing so, the BBC wades into the increasingly heated waters of the “Net Neutrality” debate.
At issue is whether the commercial owners of the telecom networks that propagate the Internet worldwide should be able to influence what is transmitted, and charge fees for higher speeds or prioritization of certain types of online content.
The BBC, as a “public service provider,” says its mission requires it to vault “all digital divides,” including social, geographic, age and ability.
This would ensure delivery of broadband Internet to communities that would benefit most from it, but which currently lack access — for example, in sparsely populated regions where demand is lower, making an investment in infrastructure less profitable to a commercial operation.
“BBC presses case for universal broadband”
Digital Spy, April 22, 2008
Based on the UK experience, Intellect does not see a need for new public policies at the European level to stimulate the provision of broadband in remote, rural or sparsely populated areas of the EU. However, some further action is required in order to ensure that the existing mechanisms are exploited to the full in all member states. In addition, the current proposed changes to Regional State Aid could be a backward step and they need to be reviewed in the light of the UK experience of the current framework. Intellect does see the need for action in the related area of satellite communications and while this would benefit the broadband market over time it is not just a broadband issue – see later.
Intellect believes that the EU currently has adequate policies and regulatory instruments in force in order to address the different aspects of the digital divide challenge. These include: the electronic communications framework; the eEurope2005 Action Plan; the i-2010 strategy; the European Cohesion and Structural Funds; the R&D Framework programme (FP6); the national broadband strategies; the EU Guidelines on the use of Structural Funds for electronic communications; the IANIS project, etc.. All of these components enable member states to initiate actions on the key issues for increasing broadband deployment, i.e. creating competitive market conditions, making EU funds available for broadband infrastructure in deprived regions and funding R&D of cheaper broadband access technologies. Unless there are some very unusual circumstances in the new Member States Intellect therefore concurs with the EC’s proposal (pg. 53) “to strengthen the application of current policies” and views this as the way forward, instead of conceiving new policies on broadband coverage.
Broadband internet these days are getting much faster and cheaper too. `.`