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Internet users face new checks

30 января 2009

Internet service providers will be forced to gather information on illegal filesharers using their networks and report serious offenders, under proposals in the government’s Digital Britain report.

Thursday’s interim report by Lord Carter, the communications minister, also set out plans to make available up to 2 megabit-per-second broadband, sufficient to watch video, to the whole country by 2012.

Andy Burnham, culture secretary, told the House of Commons on Thursday that the media and communications sectors were “both important in their own right... and fundamental to the way all businesses operate and how we all live our lives”.

“Building a digital Britain is about securing a competitive, low-carbon and creative economy in the next five to ten years,” he said.

But Jeremy Hunt, shadow cultural secretary, said he was “weary of this government’s continual substitution of reports for action”. He pointed to a national average broadband speed of 3.6mbps, adding: “The scale of government ambitions is pitifully low.”

Among the report’s 22 recommendations are plans to aid the move to next-generation mobile networks through a spectrum modernisation scheme, and a pledge to make DAB the primary distribution network for radio, although making no commitment to switching off the existing FM signal.

“Our digital networks will be the backbone of our economy in the decades ahead,” said Gordon Brown, UK prime minister, in a speech in London, adding that “Britain must invest in the industries of the future” as it fights its way out of recession.

The government has asked the Office of Fair Trading and Ofcom, the communications regulator, to review the media merger regime, which currently limits consolidation among regional broadcasters and publishers. News and children’s programming will be at the heart of broadcasters’ public-service broadcasting commitments, with Mr Burnham describing the BBC as an “enabling force”.

“We will also explore how we can establish a sustainable public service organisation which offers scale and reach alongside the BBC,” he said, building on the foundations of Channel 4.

As part of a range of measures designed to increase copyright protection, the government intends to create a new Rights Agency, through which infrastructure providers and content creators will collaborate to prevent piracy.

Under proposed legislation, broadband providers will have to monitor their networks and write to customers who share music and other copyrighted media online, warning them their behaviour is illegal.

But the personal details of “serious repeat infringers” will only be passed to rights holders if ordered to do so by a court order.

As reported by the FT, the focus of the Digital Britain report is its plan to “upgrade and modernise wired, wireless and broadcast infrastructure”.

The government will force BT and other telecoms infrastructure owners to open their ducts for third-party development, reducing the need for additional earthworks to deploy new broadband networks.

But the government deferred decisions on whether to provide incentives for private-sector investment in next-generation broadband, beyond current market-led initiatives.

Lord Carter said in his report that the UK would have to look at new ways of funding journalism and quality programme-making in the face of the “dwindling of the advertising pound in its historic role in underpinning finance for much content creation”.

The report adds that consolidation in commercial broadcasting may become necessary but that would be a matter of public interest rather than just purely a competition issue. It suggests the creation of a second public-service content company, using public assets such as elements of BBC Worldwide and Channel 4.

Other measures include pledges to improve media literacy and skills, and ensure a “dynamic investment climate” for content and online services.

While Mr Burnham said he wanted to educate parents to help them protect their children online, the report does not recommend film-style age certificates for websites, a logistically complex plan that Mr Burnham had nonetheless said he supported in December.

Источник: Financial Times

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