The jaded British public has always moved swiftly to pour scorn on any high profile Government initiatives, from the spluttering reforms of the NHS, to the joke-from-day-one Millennium Dome, to the current debacle over the Olympic Village, (the farcically large price tag of which seem to imply a sports complex populated exclusively by solid gold hurdles and swimming pools filled with diamond necklaces).
Perhaps partially for this reason, the Digital Britain report received a kicking from some quarters almost before it was published.
In what read like a pre-emptive move to curb this cynicism, the language of Gordon Brown’s commentary within the report is full of unusually uplifting rhetoric, calling on Britain to "lead the world" and of the "vision and dynamism that we have to shape the future". It was like the St Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V, if Shakespeare had written a play about internet speeds. You expected him to start vigorously roaring "we few, we happy few. We broadband of brothers".
Eyebrow-raising enthusiasm aside, the report actually offers up some fairly modest suggestions. It was quickly pointed out that a 2Mb minimum broadband connection by 2012 is actually a pretty low bar to set, and is dwarfed by goals set out by other countries.
The other aspect that has been leapt upon is the fact that the proposed revamp of the country’s internet infrastructure will be largely funded by a tax on landlines. Any new tax is always met with rigorous opposition. However the £6 a year figure hardly puts it into line with Thatcher’s introduction of the Poll Tax during the eighties.
However from an industry perspective, a state-sponsored revamp of the country’s internet habits should logically provide a boost to hardware and software sales. Most believe this will be a long-term upshot, however, and not a miracle pill to pull the industry out of the effects of the recession.
Should it therefore be dismissed? No. Ultimately, it’s a positive move for the trade. Even if some claim it doesn’t go far enough, it’s a step in the right direction. As an industry we should welcome anything that might boost sales, to any extent. Let’s just hope the proposals aren’t scrapped if the Labour Government is ousted at the next election…