What off earth is the government up to?
24 Jul 2002
Those with good memories will remember the overnment's perverse way of promoting investment in new telecommunications infrastructure. It extracted billions of pounds from the industry by auctioning off the airwaves - billions which might otherwise have been spent by the industry in taking broadband to every home in the country and laying the foudations of a modern digital highway network.

Having totally failed to learn that lesson, they are at it again!

On 22nd July, neatly timed just before Parliament rose for the recess, the government announced "New spectrum award for broadband services". This, so 10 Downing Street proclaims, "offers the potential to give broadband to all areas of the UK, and not just limit it to large cities."

So how will the government encourage the rapid deployment of this technology, which could indeed help to bridge the gap between urban and countryside areas in broadband provision? Yes, you guessed it - by holding an auction for the licenses! So yet again we see the perversity of encouraging deployment by levying a tax on those who want to deploy the technology.

But this is obviously not enough. The Downing Street announcement also tells us that there will be "no-roll out obligations to be included in licences".

In my view, this is precisely the reverse of what might be done if the government were truly committed to "broadband Britain". Instead of an auction based on ability to dump scarce cash resources into the Chancellor's pocket, why not an auction based on commitment to rollout? Award the seven "regional" licenses to the company or companies that make the strongest commitments to delivering wireless broadband to the areas that need it most, namely rural communities?

If a company has to stump up millions of pounds to get a license, it will have less cash for roll-out. Recent evidence suggests that we will simply get yet more provision in urban centres, and yet again the countryside coming last.

Back to index. Index Back to index.
Back to index.

Copyright Sir George Young Bt. 2015