Independent watchdog Consumer Focus has become the latestbody to lay into the government’s Digital Britain Interim Report, saying thatcomms minister Lord Carter’s plans lack vision, neglect consumer interests andrisk leaving the UK in the Internet ‘slow lane’.
Phil Cullum, deputy chief executive of Consumer Focusslammed Carter for producing a report that was “grounded in the past”.
“[It] focuses on protecting vested interests and old ways ofworking and living. We currently have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to usethe digital revolution to give the UK economy a powerful competitiveedge,” said Cullum.
The watchdog welcomed Digital Britain’s proposal to updatethe universal service commitment, giving broadband access to everyone in thecountry, but said that the report did not take issues surrounding access intoaccount.
Consumer Focus claims that significant sections of the population are excludedfrom the digital world either due to costs or lack of understanding, with themajority of this group either not working or in semi-skilled and unskilledmanual 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 unwillingnessto consider a minimum universal broadband speed of over 2Mb by 2012, givenother EU states had set their targets higher and in some cases are alreadyachieving average speeds of over 5Mb.