UK gov superfast broadband summit decides... erm... nothing

Don't hold your breath

The Whitehall summit on next generation broadband on Monday concluded with government, regulators and industry firmly agreeing that they definitely need to start thinking around what to do about the UK's creaking internet infrastructure at some unspecified point in the future (perhaps).

The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) meeting, held behind closed doors, was chaired by the competitiveness minister Stephen Timms. According to a statement today, the "emerging consensus [on next generation broadband]... included the need to collaborate across industry, government and the public sector". Wowzer.

The papers were full of stories about the UK falling behind on broadband yesterday, in anticipation of a major leap forward for the Knowledge Economy™.

But no such luck. "It was a constructive and open discussion which anticipated the demand for reliably faster and more symmetrical broadband. It is my job to bring people together so that this need can be met," proud host Timms gushed.

He promised to get to work on something called a "vision statement" for next generation broadband. A vision statement is like a mission statement, only served up to the public as well as within an organisation. They're equally nebulous and specifically designed to contain no policy information whatsoever.

BERR intends to call another meeting in six months' time "to take stock" of the process. Timms said he'll also be keeping an eye on high speed broadband pilots, such as Virgin Media's 50Mbit/s trial in Kent, which the cable operator is aiming to roll out nationwide by the close of 2008.

In a mildly entertaining dig at BT, the minister added: "I'm pleased that Virgin Media have decided to take an important first step to upgrade its network to 50Mbps by the end of next year. This is an important stride towards full next generation access in the UK which I'm sure others will want to match."

Ofcom chief Ed Richards made it clear that the regulator won't be intervening to encourage early investment. He said: "Ofcom's role is to deliver a robust regulatory framework allowing industry to deploy when there is a clear business case for doing so."

So like we said, don't hold your breath. ®

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