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Lords call for the end of TV transmissions

Stream it over the net instead, says upper house

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The UK House of Lords has recommended ending broadcast television and re-allocating for mobile data usage the spectrum currently used to transmit digital TV signals.

Rather than take up vital electromagnetic spectrum, TV should be delivered exclusively over the internet, the House of Lords' Communications Committee concluded.

In a report entitled Broadband for All - An Alternative Vision, the Committee writes: "We recommend that the government, Ofcom and the industry begin to consider the desirability of the transfer of terrestrial broadcast content from spectrum to the internet and the consequent switching off of broadcast transmission over spectrum."

The then-free spectrum would then be used to deliver more, faster mobile data services, allowing decent-speed broadband to become available to Brits wherever on these islands they are.

The notion is that since most folk watch TV in fixed locations, it's better to feed those TV sets with signals from a fixed-line system - cable or broadband, though there's increasingly no difference between the two - rather than an over-the-air system better suited to mobile applications.

As we reported yesterday, the Committee's recommendation is part of a broader set of suggestions offered with a view to improving the quality of fixed-line and mobile broadband in Blighty, central as it is to the economy.

Current and past governments have failed to understand the importance of broadband to Britain's future prosperity, but future administrations - and the Coalition, if it's smart - need to get with the programme.

"Our communications network must be regarded as a strategic, national asset," the Committee said. "The government’s strategy lacks just that – strategy."

One option considered by the Committee is the imposition of what it called a "Universal Service Obligation (USO)" - a legally binding minimum level of broadband speed and reach. The Committee rejected such a move in the short term. But, reading between the lines, it's clear it has something like this in mind.

"While we do not support the introduction of a USO at present, we do believe that broadcast media will increasingly come to be delivered via the internet," the report states.

"As and when that happens, and particularly in circumstances where this applies to PSB [Public Service Broadcasting] channels, the argument for recommending a USO becomes stronger. The Government should begin now to give this active consideration."

So, as and when PSB channels - the BBC and Channel 4, basically - go exclusively online, the government will need to implement a USO to ensure that PS broadcasters' accessibility mandates can be maintained, the Committee is saying - after already recommending putting PSB channels, and others, exclusively online. ®

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