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Digital Infrastructure Study

How do we create and maintain Digital Infrastructures for the 21st Century?

In his first speech as DCMS Secretary of State (July 2010), Jeremy Hunt quoted Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google that “it is now vital that businesses and government build their strategies around the Internet”.

The Internet and the communications infrastructures over which it runs are changing at an accelerating pace. Society is increasingly dependent on seamless on-line services that are always available. We can no longer afford to base policy on simply extending the life of half a dozen increasingly fragile, 20th century, semi-incompatible, pre-internet, fixed and mobile telecoms networks. We need to look at how to facilitate and expedite the transition to a seamless mesh of fully inter-operable services that collectively provide the necessary post-internet resilience.

Policies based on protecting returns on past investment and extrapolating the business models of current communication and internet service providers risk locking the UK into a dead end. We need to encourage investment in “future proof” services, including to locations and communities not currently well served. That requires government, to act as pro-active and intelligent customer, mandating open inter-operability standards, including IPV6 (the next generation of the Internet) for its own procurements. It also requires encouraging and assisting local authorities to pool spend on their own service delivery needs and economic development responsibilities, using the Social Value Act, with local businesses and property owners, in order to help pull through investment, via both current national operators and the new community network builders, in world class local access.

The study focuses on the actions necessary if we are to use market forces to deliver world class, socially and commercially inclusive, inter-operable, UK digital infrastructures. The topics include:

  • Basing a Universal Service Commitment on “guaranteed” access to services that are “fit for purpose”, with purpose including the effective use of “Digital by Default” services.

  • Ensuring candid, accurate and meaningful information on prices, capacity and performance, particularly with regard to services to business.

  • Improving guidance for local government and other public sector organisations on good practice in planning and procurement

  • Mandating and supporting open Inter-operability.

  • Providing the political and regulatory certainty needed by infrastructure investors while responding to problems, particularly abuse by dominant players or local monopolists.

  • Improving the skills of government as an intelligent pro-active customer and robust anti-trust regulator.

  • Ensuring confidence that infrastructures are indeed sufficiently secure and resilient for those whose lives and businesses will depend on them.

  • Encouraging funding and business models which enable and encourage those deriving benefit to share the cost and risk of investment in access and capacity

The intention is to involve industry experts in round tables with relevant professional bodies and trade associations. The material will be digested for political use and tested with prospective parliamentary candidates for constituencies where broadband is a known hot topic. The results will be forwarded to ministers and to local councillors to help them drive local initiatives as well as to the 2015 policy team.

How do you participate?

Please send an e-mail with note of your interests and expertise, including relevant professional and/or political experience, to the CTF Vice Chairman, Policy Studies:

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