Two-and-a-Half Cheers for OFCOM
28 Apr 2004
Angry Phone Man - logo of my broadband campaign
Angry Phone Man - logo of my broadband campaign
I'm impressed by the way OFCOM (our national telecommunications and broadcasting regulator) has launched its Strategic Review of Telecommunications with a "plain English summary", complete with a Crystal Mark from the Plain English Campaign (

I reserved my final half a cheer because of the way OFCOM appears to be approaching one important aspect of telecommunications, which they are now calling "broaderband":
"if there are new, competing technologies which get used too, this could lead to less regulation.
In the future, people may also want 'broaderband' - faster connections than even cable or DSL can offer. If so, it is very important that regulation does not put off companies that might invest in this next generation of technology. Whether this move forward will happen, and how quickly, will depend partly on whether operators succeed in selling entertainment services to us that are delivered using broadband connections."
I think this line is defective in three ways:
  1. It falls into a classic chicken-and-egg trap. Companies won't invest in new content that requires broadband unless and until a high proportion of consumers can access that content. In this field the infrastructure has to be there first - there are lots of other ways to distribute conventional existing entertainment.
  2. Applications other than entertainment may well be more important and more attractive, but they too will require broaderband to be widely deployed before they can be successfully introduced.
  3. Broaderband deployment and use are critical to the future of the UK economy, as well as promising some new tools to address social, educational and public services issues. We need a regulatory regime that actively encourages and rewards investment in new infrastructure, not a passive approach that waits to see whether "new, competing technologies" that "could lead to less regulation".
So it's two-and-a-half cheers, not three!

I'll be sending my own views in for the OFCOM consultation and will post them here. I hope constituents will take the opportunity to 'have their say'.
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