BBC broadband funding plan meets mixed response

Today's announcement of a legally binding agreement releasing £150 million to finance the latest stage of high-speed broadband access has been met with a mixed reaction from the CWU.

As part of the BBC licence fee settlement with the Government, the broadcaster is required to put this cash towards the 2013/14 and 2016/17 broadband rollout programme, which will be overseen by the BBC Trust.

Andy Kerr
The CWU has been campaigning for universal high-speed broadband access for several years and, reacting to today's announcement, the union's deputy general secretary Andy Kerr welcomed the money and said: "It is right the BBC Trust should have a role in overseeing the use of BBC funds, given that the BBC has been asked to provide the lion's share of public funding for broadband delivery.

"But research shows that more public funding will be required to get faster broadband out to rural and remote areas, and the BBC should not be expected to carry this cost alone," he added.

Andy said that other broadcasters stood to benefit from the rollout of the new high-speed infrastructure. "They will rely heavily on having access to a high-speed broadband network to distribute their services and it would be fair to ask them to contribute to the cost," he suggested. "Commercial broadcasters will benefit from using a network built by public funds to deliver highly profitable premium film and sport at exclusive prices" he pointed out.

Digitial Britain
Although the money is welcome, Andy warned that diverting cash from the licence fee settlement could adversely affect the BBC's output of quality public service programming over the next five years.

"The CWU is by no means alone in saying the Government needs a much more ambitious strategy for broadband to keep pace with our global competitors," Andy continued, explaining that the union has been and continues to campaign for a universal service obligation for broadband, funded by a communications industry-wide levy similar to that proposed by Labour in 2010.

"A small levy is the best way to bring reliable access to quality broadband services to every UK home and business, helping to close the digital divide and create jobs and growth right across the country," he stressed.

For further details, visit the Delivering Digital Britain campaign page.

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