Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw outlined the future of the UK's digital infrastructure in parliament this afternoon following the publication of Communications Minister Lord Carter's Digital Britain report today.

The main parts of the report include:
  • Universal access to today’s broadband services by 2012
  • Next Generation fund for investment in tomorrow’s broadband services
  • Upgraded mobile networks and liberalisation of 3G spectrum
  • A three-year National Plan to boost Digital Participation
  • Robust legal and regulatory framework to combat Digital Piracy
  • Support for public service content partnerships and revised digital remit for Channel 4
  • Funding options for national, regional and local news
  • Programme of Digital Switchover in Public Services, including upgrading all Radio stations to digital by 2015
Bradshaw announced that the Government is planning a 50 pence-per-month supplement on fixed-line connections as part of a national fund to help pay for the next-generation of broadband. He said that private investment alone wouldn't be enough to guarantee a nationwide rollout of fibre broadband.

"Left to the market, true super-fast broadband will only reach two thirds of homes and businesses in the next decade," claimed Bradshaw. The national fund created by the broadband tax would raise enough money to roll out the next-generation of broadband to the remaining third of the UK's population by 2017, said the report.

The Government will also legislate to stop illegal file-sharing and said it will provide "a framework that encourages the growth of legal markets for downloading that are inexpensive, convenient and easily accessible for consumers." Regulator Ofcom will be tasked with securing "a significant reduction in unlawful file sharing by imposing two specific obligations: notification of unlawful activity and, for repeat-infringers, a court-based process of identity release and civil action."

In order to encourage inexpensive but legal digital content distribution, the report says that the Government will "make some changes to the legislative framework around copyright licensing." The report doesn't really go into a lot of detail on exactly how the copyright laws might be changed though, saying that some issues are National while others are the responsibility of the EU.

The report also confirms the Government's commitment to universal 2Mb/sec broadband by 2012, which will be met via "several elements including simple and complex in-house wiring solutions, deploying fibre to the street for a selected number of cabinets and a wireless solution using either mobile or satellite".

The Government does admit that resolving in-house wiring issues could come at a cost to the consumer, but the industry would be expected to foot the bill for deployment of wired or wireless networks that meet the 2Mb/sec threshold. What the report doesn't say though is how these costs will be shared: "It is not possible to include quantitative information on the expected costs and benefits of these proposals as they may influence the outcome of the subsequent competitive tendering process. These will be published in a final impact assessment which will be produced once this has taken place," said the report.

The Digital Britain report is a massive 245 pages long and if you're interested in reading the whole report you can grab it from the Department of Culture's website.

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