Need to Know: Digital Britain

It's long been realised that the key to the nation's economic future is digital, and the government has finally come out with a complete action plan of what it is going to try and do to ensure our industries take full advantage.

However being a government white paper, it's long, complex and difficult to wade through. IT PRO has been looking into the report for some time, and we've highlighted below some of the most important areas.

So what is Digital Britain?

It is a report that contains actions and recommendations overseen by the communications minister of the time Lord Carter, and is a central policy commitment in the Government's Building Britain's Future plan. It is also a draft for future legislation.

What's the Universal Service Commitment?

One of the most important parts of the report is a commitment by the government to ensure that every household gets at least a 2Mbps service by 2012.

From analysis, 11 per cent of all lines (about 2.75 million homes) are unable to get a 2Mbps service. To fix this, money will be needed, which will be met through public funding as well as commercial investment.

What about next generation broadband networks?

The government feels that universal availability is necessary, but not actually sufficient enough for the UK's digital future. This means faster broadband speeds through next-generation networks.

The report says that investment from ISPs like BT and Virgin Media will only provide around two thirds of the country with next-generation broadband.

This means that the government needs to generate more funds to provide the other third with next-gen broadband, and this will be achieved thanks to a broadband tax' - a 6 a year collection from the bill of each fixed line.

Will mobile networks be upgraded?

The report says that the limitations of 3G technology are already becoming clear it provides a big boost in bandwidth but it isn't the same through all the service areas.

The most likely technology for national networks across Europe is Long Term Evolution (LTE). The UK could benefit from being at the edge of this, as it could improve mobility and productivity, as well as having the best long term potential when it comes to including broadband to all of Britain.

When it comes to government intervention, it will be in the form of releasing new radio spectrum for the rapid roll out of these LTE networks, making sure that networks can compete with each other as well as providing universal coverage across Britain.

Will it help combat digital piracy?

The government considers online piracy to be a serious offence and effectively a civil form of theft. The report tries to set out a clear path to reduce unlawful file sharing by 70-80 per cent.

Legislative-wise, the government is consulting on a proposal to give Ofcom the power and duty to take steps to reduce copyright infringement.

However, Ofcom will require ISPs to do two things notify account holders when their account appears to have been downloading pirated material, and keep data on the most serious of the infringers to be identified, possibly for a future court case.

Is there a national plan to improve digital literacy?

All this fancy new technology won't be much use if people can't use it, and the government is looking give people - young and old - the skills they need to help contribute to and run a a 21st century digital economy.Want more background on the latest IT topics? Click here for all the tech cheatsheets in our Need to Know series.