Broadband for all falls far short on capacity

The next few days will see us pick over every paragraph of Lord Carter’s Digital Britain report. After a quick scan of the executive summary, I have to say I have some questions of my own.

Before its publication, Gordon Brown wrote on Tuesday that a fast internet connection is “now seen by most of the public as essential, as indispensable as electricity, gas and water”. If you can ignore the slightly silly hyperbole that we’re now used to hearing from our embattled Prime Minister, you’ll acknowledge the point he was trying to make. Most members of the public feel a fast broadband connection is their right, something they should have access to. There’s not a lot wrong with that. Those of us who have fast enough broadband to watch television, stay in touch with friends, pay bills, plan holidays and access all sorts of other services now take it for granted. But it is hard to argue the 40% of UK households without internet access (according to the last available Ofcom report) are not disadvantaged, even if they themselves do not particularly agree. Such disadvantage will only intensify if Britain’s hi-tech and digital infrastructure continues to grow in importance as our “new economy” develops.

But cost is clearly an issue that required sorting. Part of the solution is a “small levy” on all fixed telephone lines to establish a national fund enabling ISPs to offer next-generation broadband at a cheaper price. Such a tax, say 50p per month, is a fine idea but it rankles that we’re talking here about provision only for the third of the market that can’t currently access broadband at all.

The universal broadband the rest of us have been promised is 2Mbps, which is less “next generation” and more yesterday’s news. If lack of money is the reason we are discussing upgrading the existing copper and wireless networks to provide nothing more ambitious or speedy than 2Mbps, we need to think about the cost of having to do it again in a decade’s time. By then we will all require fibre optics and speeds of up to 50Mbps and even double that speed to keep up with other countries, which are now investing in upgrades to take advantage of new technology.

As the report itself admits, “small variations in performance can have significant ripple effects and major costs to the wider economy”. If this is our one big chance to provide a UK digital blueprint, surely we should be reaching for the stars?

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3711 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here