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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 23 October, 2002, 08:32 GMT 09:32 UK
Net industry told to adapt or die
Normandy Landings
Getting Britons using broadband is like staging D-Day
Britain's broadband industry must start co-operating or face going bust.

The tough message was delivered by Philip Virgo, Secretary General of the European Information Society Group at Brighton's annual Telecom Managers Association meeting.

In a speech about the politics of high-speed internet access he warned that without this unity on the delivery of broadband the UK as a whole would face an uncertain future.

He likened the huge task of turning Britons on to broadband to the invasion of Normandy during World War II.

Herding cats

"Time is not on our side," he said, "unless we take action now, by 2005 the UK will be less a world class centre for e-commerce than a local English-language base for addressing the continent of Europe," he said.


Unless you get your act together politically most of those manning the stands here in Brighton today will be out of a job by next year

Philip Virgo, Eurim
He said the government's aim of making Britain the best place for broadband was hampered by the conflict goals of Whitehall and the Cabinet Office.

While Whitehall was keen to maintain departmental independence, the Cabinet Office was pushing joined-up government.

And that dispute was just the start of the problems, he said.

Mr Virgo described the battle between broadband suppliers, who want cheap music and movies for their customers, and rights-holders, who want a good return for their works, as "trench warfare".

"Getting some of the industry players to work together can be like herding cats," he said.

Job losses

EURIM is an all-party parliamentary industry lobby group that talks to policy-makers about the views of the internet industry.

It has an influence on legislation and has helped set the agenda for the Communications Bill, advised on how to achieve useful e-government services and lobbied for changes to the controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.

The push for broadband debate is one of EURIM's biggest projects and its message to delegates at TMA was stark.

"Unless you get your act together politically, most of those manning the stands here in Brighton today will be out of a job by next year," said Mr Virgo.


Co-opetition does seem to be rather a good way forward when no-one has any idea of the nature of the ultimate business case but does know that a variety of users are willing to pay good money up-front, for a variety of services

Philip Virgo, Eurim
Getting the public sector to sign up for broadband would be key to kickstart the market he said, and greater co-operation between officials and suppliers was necessary to make this happen.

The government was making millions of pounds available for broadband education and training networks and it was vital that this money was spent wisely, said Mr Virgo.

Anathema to bureacrats

For inspiration he suggested that operators looked to models adopted in Korea - where 60% of the population have a broadband connection - and Germany.

In Germany Deutsche Telekom has been allowed to recreate its monopoly and in Korea two suppliers compete to ensure roll-out of broadband is widespread.

"Co-opetition, where players come together in kaleidoscopes of co-operating and competing alliances is, of course, anathema to bureaucrats and regulators," he said.

"But co-opetition does seem to be rather a good way forward when no-one has any idea of the nature of the ultimate business case but does know that a variety of users are willing to pay good money up-front for a variety of services," he said.

See also:

22 Oct 02 | Technology
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10 Oct 02 | Technology
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