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Ofcom preps 'digital dividend' selloff, kick in the (foot)balls for Sky

Olympic spectrum-cop electronic warfare unit planned, too

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Ofcom has laid out its priorities for the next two years: mostly cost-cutting and working out how to best slap down bit torrent users, but kicking Sky too.

The draft plan is open to comment until the beginning of March. But don't rush to the defence of the pirates just yet: Ofcom will only be drawing up a code for dealing with persistent file-sharers if the industry fails to come up with one of its own – though the regulator will have to provide quarterly reports on the levels of copyright infringement, and do so with 170 fewer staff and a lot less money.

Some of the financial savings will come from that staff reduction, and the associated office space, other savings will be made by abolishing the Consumer Communications Panel, the Advisory Committee on Older and Disabled Consumers and the Advisory Committee for England – Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland get to keep their advisors.

Ofcom reckons it can shave almost 30 per cent off its budget by 2015, with most of that happening in the next couple of years. But that will still leave enough money to hit Sky where it hurts – in the football. Ofcom is keen to follow through on its promise to make Sky license Sky Sports (1 & 2) at a price set by Ofcom, so no more exclusivity for the satellite provider.

Also on the agenda is smoothing the porting process, to make changing communication providers easier, but that's something which gets mentioned every year and progresses very slowly, if at all.

More imminently approaching is the Olympics, and Ofcom has exciting plans to "Test and further prepare our direction-finding equipment to pinpoint any harmful interference to Games users", and "Recruit and train experts who can provide assurance of spectrum availability and freedom from interference during the Games" – which is all a lot more interesting than negotiating with operators for faster porting.

But the biggest deal of the next two years – literally – is the mega auction of digital dividend spectrum: the old TV frequencies along with some 2.6GHz bandwidth which was supposed to be auctioned off years ago. Ofcom is drawing up proposals for those auctions now, and should publish them next month, after which we expect to see complaints, lots of sabre-rattling and a legal challenge or two from the network operators, who will all feel aggrieved at some perceived injustice in the process – like overtired siblings following a long car journey.

Which should keep the regulator busy for a while, so with that and the reduced budgets it might not be quite so quick to respond next time someone calls to complain about the results of The X Factor. ®

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