Monday, June 17, 2013

Scotland - A way forward on broadband would be the creation of neutral stakeholders forum to analyse and share understandings of problems and solutions

The Scottish Government, as part of its Digital Dialogue, held an event on "Regulatory options for delivering world class digital infrastructure by 2002" on 13 June 2013. This relates to:
Scotland’s Digital Future: Infrastructure Action Plan outlines a commitment to a future-proofed infrastructure that will deliver world-class digital connectivity across the whole of Scotland by 2020.
One conclusion of the meeting was that, following the examples of the Swedish Bredsbands Forum and the UK Broadband Stakeholders Group, there was a case to create a neutral "forum" or "platform" for all broadband "stakeholders". This would be a useful way to continue the debate, to share opinions and to present information to the public, to regulators and to government.

I have posted by own small contribution on what world class might mean.

It is worth noting that none of the multiplicity of UK regulators (e.g., OFCOM, Advertising Standards Authority, OTA2 and PayPhonePlus) was in the room, let alone asked to speak. Of course, telecommunications and competition policy are not devolved matters, but are exclusively matters for the UK government.

Bengt Mölleryd of the Swedish regulator PTS set out the situation in Sweden. In particular he noted the substantial developments of "village fibre" networks and the deployment of 4G/LTE networks. The latter was enabled by the network sharing for 3G, following the beauty contest which had awarded licences to operators proposing to build the most masts. Individuals were adopting 4G and were paying up to £1,500 per household to install a fibre connection.

Matt Yardley (Analysys Mason) considered copper not to be dead, but to continue to be an important network element. He argued access to ducts and poles was largely irrelevant. In rural areas a single infrastructure was an option.

Domhnal Dods (Towerhouse Consulting) called for competition rather than regulation. He noted the limited scope of the present arrangements with the EU regulatory framework and the UK legislation. While the EC had suggested further reforms this was being opposed by HMG. He drew attention to the devolved powers over the business rates charged on networks, which were applied inconsistently to BT, alternative operators and community initiatives. The Electronic communications code had been strongly criticised in a recent judgement by the UK Supreme Court.

The discussion period had a fairly heated exchange over the position of BT in the UK government's rural broadband schemes. Given that it was the sole bidder and already the SMP operator in local access there was concern that taxpayer's money was shoring up the its dominant position in the market. The suggestion was made that the access condition to the BT network might not have been aligned either with the Openreach platform or the requirements of likely access seekers.

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