According to the FT, a new DTI report on speeding broadband adoption is not very optimistic. It concludes that wider availability and falling prices will not be enough to persuade most households to try it. Starting from the premise that a more thoroughly broadband Britain is a social and economic ‘good thing’ (one of those assumptions that?s crying out for a good kicking ? no time here, though), the report contains one very good idea that I?d like to see acted upon. The authors recommend a Government-funded pilot for a sort of ?broadband Channel 4? ? a ?5-10M year one investment in public service broadband content. So far, so worthy. Why is this classic piece of pump-priming a good thing and not just more fiddling at the margins (the Government?s track record on broadband has been widely rubbished and Britain still lags most Western economies in take-up). It?s a good idea because it should provide a healthy counterweight to the BBC?s own effort to redefine public service provision for the networked era.
With charter renewal efforts under way (the first hurdle is two years away), there is much good work being done within the beeb but it?s taking place against the thin (and getting thinner) background of commercial broadband content and an independent content creation sector wiped out by the crash. What?s needed now is someone to compete with Auntie for funds and talent while we work to define an industry and a medium. Half a dozen really good public service broadband projects from outside the BBC would soak up a lot of under-used talent, raise the creative temperature nicely and might just put Britain on the broadband map. According to the FT, ministers are luke warm about the whole report. Pity. If we moved on this recommendation alone, ?Broadband Britain? might sound less hollow.