Government urged to prioritise high-speed broadband

The government should prioritise investment in high-speed broadband to improve the UK's internet infrastructure and avoid exacerbating the digital divide, a new think tank report has said today.

But the report published by economic and social policy think tank, the Social Market Foundation (SMF) suggests that public service broadcasting funding should be diverted to ensure comprehensive broadband coverage is achieved.

The research report was funded by broadcasters, BBC and Five and therefore focused on the relationship between technology and broadcasting. It concluded that the expansion of access to faster internet connections would help foster more diverse and innovative new commercial content and services.

Commenting on the report findings, SMF senior research fellow Jessica Prendergrast said the existence of a major institution like the BBC would remain important. "Equally important however, is for the government to ensure widespread access to high-speed broadband as a top priority, just as it once prioritised access to analogue TV," she said. "Otherwise there is a risk that only the young and affluent will benefit."

The report was welcomed by Gavyn Davies OBE, former chairman of the BBC. In his foreword, Davies said the findings suggested the likes of ITV and Five should be released from their public service obligations to concentrate on growing as commercial enterprises or continue with a more modest public service role.

He said the arrival of cable, satellite and now digital, on-demand television was just "a minor revolution compared to the arrival of broadband, which enables users to access content where and when they choose, and to access moving images, data, sound and communication simultaneously".

Looking ahead to 2018, the report forecast: "In all scenarios, new distribution platforms battle for supremacy and challenge the status quo, there is substantial growth in consumers accessing content online, and consumer expectations will demand new modes of interaction and engagement."

PDF copies of the report can be downloaded via this link.

Miya Knights

A 25-year veteran enterprise technology expert, Miya Knights applies her deep understanding of technology gained through her journalism career to both her role as a consultant and as director at Retail Technology Magazine, which she helped shape over the past 17 years. Miya was educated at Oxford University, earning a master’s degree in English.

Her role as a journalist has seen her write for many of the leading technology publishers in the UK such as ITPro, TechWeekEurope, CIO UK, Computer Weekly, and also a number of national newspapers including The Times, Independent, and Financial Times.