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Digital Britain plan risks leaving UK in the slow lane

Microscope contributor

Independent watchdog Consumer Focus has become the latest body to lay into the government’s Digital Britain Interim Report, saying that comms minister Lord Carter’s plans lack vision, neglect consumer interests and risk leaving the UK in the Internet ‘slow lane’.

Phil Cullum, deputy chief executive of Consumer Focus slammed Carter for producing a report that was “grounded in the past”.

“[It] focuses on protecting vested interests and old ways of working and living. We currently have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to use the digital revolution to give the UK economy a powerful competitive edge,” said Cullum.

The watchdog welcomed Digital Britain’s proposal to update the universal service commitment, giving broadband access to everyone in the country, but said that the report did not take issues surrounding access into account.

Consumer Focus claims that significant sections of the population are excluded from the digital world either due to costs or lack of understanding, with the majority of this group either not working or in semi-skilled and unskilled manual jobs.

The prohibitive cost of IT kit and broadband services and alack of IT-savvy would “reinforce existing patterns of social exclusion”, Consumer Focus warned.

It also criticised the government’s apparent unwillingness to consider a minimum universal broadband speed of over 2Mb by 2012, given other EU states had set their targets higher and in some cases are already achieving average speeds of over 5Mb.


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