That Digital Britain report in full
Mandatory DAB, seedcorn for mega-telcos, etc
Digital Britain What's in the Digital Britain review? If you're plugged into our Live Twitter Feed, you'll already know, telepathically. But here are the highlights from the 240 page document
- Government will only get involved in menacing freetards as a last resort, and disconnection is off-the-agenda. Menacing will be handed over to Ofcom. If piracy hasn't gone down by 70 per cent after 12 months of letter writing, ISPs have the winged watchdog's blessing to use technical measures to slow down infringing users, including blocking IP addresses. The mooted Rights Agency - a talking shop to be funded by a new broadband tax, that Carter floated in January - is dead too. Instead Carter wants a voluntary agency, "like the ASA". (He's a former ad-man). For more details and reaction, see our in-depth report here.
- You didn't think government bailed out basket cases? There's an exception for radio. Carter wants analog spectrum used by FM and AM vacated at the end of 2015 - so you're going to get DAB whether you want it or not. The report wants all receivers to be compatible with WorldDMB profile 1, which means supports for DAB and DRM (but not DVB-H). And Carter wants digital radio in every car by 2012. After 2015, FM spectrum it will be handed over to low-power "ultra local" radio stations "temporarily". As a sweetener for DAB operators, they can keep their licenses until 2030. Analyst Grant Goddard argues this isn't the analog switch off everyone thinks it is.
The Beeb escapes for now
- Carter pre-emptively defended the report from a charge of BBC lobbying - I haven't caved in, he said. The license fee is safe, it's merely the digital propaganda fund - the £130m a year portion earmarked for adverts and information about Freeview, DAB etc - that's going to be redistributed. This cash pile will now be called the "Contained Contestestable Element". The beneficiary isn't C4, as it hoped, but "primarily" local TV news (eg, Roger Mellie) and perhaps children's TV programming. C4 can look after itself, said Carter. But consultations will follow...
- A tax of 50p a month will be levied on every fixed line connection - to contribute to a fund to provide "seedcorn funding" to operators to build-out rural broadband access. We didn't know Vodafone, BT etc need seedcorn funding. Carter said he hoped "most of it will be competed away". So it's a stealth tax, a meaningless sweetener ... and Government gets to look like it's doing something.
- Spectrum will be liberalised, which Carter vowed would give Ofcom less to do. Don't count on it - they get two new regular "audits" to perform. 3G mobile licenses will be made permanent. Vodafone and O2's lobbying has paid off - they won't be forced off the 900Mhz 2G spectrum Ofcom wants to flog at auction. The report suggests the gavel should go down on that - and the 2.6Ghz paired FDD spectrum - next year.
- There'll be no new levy for copyright holders to compensate for private copying and format shifting. Although it's in place in 22 EU countries, Carter & Co argued that a recession wasn't the best time to increase the price of consumer electronics gear - and that UK broadcasters get enough state support as it is.
Anything we missed? It's probably not in there, or has been passed along for another consultation exercise - but let us know.
Remember this is a report from a Government that knows it's out on its ear in less than a year - and a minister who'll be in a happier and more lucrative new job within weeks. It's one of those reports.®
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