Government “doesn’t know what 2 meg promise means”

A committee of MPs has attacked the Government’s pledge to deliver universal 2Mbits/sec broadband, claiming it has no “clear definition of what it means”.

Government

The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee asked both the Minister for Digital Britain, Stephen Timms, and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to define the 2Mbits/sec promise, but was left bewildered by their responses.

When asked to clarify what the 2Mbits/sec pledge meant, Timms replied that “we will give virtually everybody access to a line capable of delivering 2Mbits/sec”.

It should look and feel like a 2Mbits/sec commitment as someone in areas served by those markets would understand it

Mr Timms added that: “It is not a guarantee that under any circumstances 2Mbits/sec functionality will be available because there is a degree of variability about that. But the service that is provided will be capable of delivering 2Mbits/sec”.

In supplementary evidence, BIS added that the universal service commitment would provide what “should look and feel like a 2Mbits/sec commitment as someone in areas served by those markets would understand it”.

“Not a helpful statement”

As the Committee noted, “this is not a helpful statement”.

“What a 2Mbits/sec connection ‘feels’ like is subject to the time of day the user tends to use the internet,” the Committee states in its report. “Someone whose use is restricted to the evenings (i.e. peak hours) would have a very different feel of 2Mbits/sec to someone whose use was confined to the mornings.”

In conclusion, the Committee suggested the Government is issuing promises that even it doesn’t understand. “We are concerned that the Government is committed to a Universal Service Commitment of 2Mbits/sec, with a budget of £200 million, without a clear definition of what it means,” the report states. “The criteria upon which any significant spending is based must be made clear.”

“We believe that the Universal Service Commitment should deliver a minimum 2Mbits/sec under normal circumstances, to all users. This achievable objective would provide a greater range of services to all areas of the United Kingdom.”

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