Page last updated at 12:58 GMT, Thursday, 29 January 2009

UK's digital action plan unveiled

Kashvi Shah uses pay-as-you-surf 100Mbps broadband at her home in west London

The Government has outlined plans to boost the digital and communications industries, which contribute more than 50bn a year to the UK economy.

In a statement to Parliament, the Culture Secretary Andy Burnham said Britain "led the world in content creation".

But the Conservatives said the report promised "no new action, but eight further reports".

The full report and proposals will be unveiled in late spring.

Faster net

Outlining the findings of the Digital Britain report to Parliament, Mr Burnham said that it would help Britain secure a competitive low carbon economy in the next five to 10 years.

Lord Carter, the minister for communications, technology and broadcasting, published his wide-ranging report which, as expected, called for everyone in the UK to get access to a broadband speed of at least 2 megabits per second (Mbps).

Currently, telecoms firms are only obliged to provide lines that can handle 28.8kbps. At 2Mbps lines will be capable of handling much more video and sites that offer much greater interactivity.

Every aspect of our lives... will be dependent on the services that the digital network provides
Gordon Brown

The 22 recommendations in the interim report examined both broadcasting and the UK's digital infrastructure.

In it, Lord Carter kicked off a detailed analysis of the UK's next generation network plans.

By the time of the final report, the government will know whether internet service providers (ISPs) can be relied on to build next generation networks themselves or if government help will be needed.

As well as next-generation networks, the recommendations cover:

• universal access to broadband

• the modernisation of wireless radio spectrum

• a digital future for radio

• digital content rights

• enhancing the digital delivery of public services

The Prime Minister, speaking at the New Local Government Network in central London, said that the digital economy would play a crucial part in lifting Britain out of recession.

"Today we have an interim report from Lord Carter setting out the scale of our ambition to compete in the digital economy and that's a market worth about 50bn a year," he said.

"It affects every community in our country who are looking for the best digital infrastructure, access to broadband, that we can offer them.


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"We know that every aspect of our lives in local communities - every school, every hospital, every workplace and even every home - will be dependent on the services that the digital network provides."

The report also examined illegal file-sharing of movies, music and TV and appraise ways of tackling it. It will try to find out if people will be happy to pay a "modest and proportionate contribution" to help offset losses from piracy.

And it will include proposals on how to protect children, as millions, many of them under-18, visit social networking sites and play games online.

The report examined the future of public service broadcasting (PSB) and looked at the strengths of Channel 4 as a PSB alongside the BBC.

Communications watchdog Ofcom last week warned Channel 4 faced a bleak future unless a deal could be reached.

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