Brown: Internet as integral as gas and water

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has reaffirmed the Government’s pledge that every home and business will have access to broadband ahead of the unveiling of the Digital Britain report later today (May 16).

Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Prime Minister Gordon Brown

In a newspaper column Brown focused on the need to provide high-speed internet access to every part of the country, which he says has become as “indispensable as electricity, gas and water”.

The Government’s goal is to ensure everyone in the UK will have broadband access by 2012 and at a speed fast enough to be able to watch live TV.

Sacha Deshmukh, head of corporate communications at marketing communications group Engine, says however that the report will only prove that the Govnerment is “falling woefully behind the pace of media change”.

Brown has also pointed to the need to sustain public service content such as commercial regional news.

As part of this, it is largely expected that the report, authored by the outgoing Minster for Communications Lord Carter, could see the BBC forced to share part of the TV licence fee with commercial broadcasters.

In the Times newspaper column, Brown also says it will need to “help Channel 4 to secure its future”, but did not go as far as revealing if the report would recommend a tie-up with BBC Worldwide, as has been previously speculated.

In May, Channel 4 chief executive, Andy Duncan, said that discussions with BBC Worldwide were “going well” and that he remained “confident” of a positive outcome.

The broadcaster has already said that it would look to slice around £60m from its programming budget in the next year to offset falling revenues.

In other recommendations expected to be outlined in the report, it will take a hard line on online piracy, calling on internet service providers (ISPs) and the content industry to penalise people who illegally copy and share music and films over the internet.

Lord Carter is expected to create an “enforcement agency” which would make ISPs send out warning letters to repeat offenders who could then be penalised by having their connection speeds reduced.

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