Ofcomwatch blog logo Luke Gibbs, co-founder of the Ofcomwatch blog, conducted an in-depth interview with Ofcom's chief executive Ed Richards last month. You can read the full interview here. Do you think people are clear what they pay when they make phone calls in the UK? Well, not always and that's why we have made and are …
This is a very interesting probe into the corridors of regulatory power. I found the last few questions probing his evidence-based stance contrasted with leap-of-faith "judgement calls" on the future of Web 2.0 very well posed.
Another thought occurred. He talks about how even though the meetings are conducted in secret and there is no political pressure from above, the board is well balanced and the decisions are being made sensibly, with an eye to both consumers and the nurturing of business and a healthy market. Indeed the track record shows many clear-headed decisions and few terrible ones, but I have to wonder whether in the absence of an open process, is this situation fragile? What if a government decides it needs to increase control over the airwaves, say, or make life difficult for telecoms companies who don't open up their systems for wire tapping? An open system is (or should be) more resilient to this kind of nefarious activity.
Then again, perhaps the bad decisions that are so regularly made (in the open) in Parliament and Congress on issues like this show that openness is no safeguard...
What the heck is DDR? Dance Dance Revolution? :-)
To the previous poster, DDR is (I think) the Digital Dividend Review. Basically, analogue TV uses huge amounts of bandwidth - partly due to technology constraints at the time it was introduced. Once we all go digital, then the argument is that all this bandwidth isn't needed and can be sold off (OK, there's talk of holding some for 'public service' and local community broadcasting and stuff). I am one of the many who consider that the issue HAS been decided already - heck, the name presupposes that there's a dividend to be received from this.
I'm worried that we'll sell off loads of spectrum (who needs 'yet another phone network' ?), and then find that we no longer have the bandwidth to provide more channels, or HD channels, via terrestrial digital. To get into that situation would further entrench Sky as an officially sanctioned monopoly with all the 'badness' that comes with it. Now if they were to force the separation of Sky into a distribution network operating an 'at cost' distribution system (as effectively happens with Terestrial Digital) providing distribution to third party content providers (including the package/content arm of Sky) on a non-discriminatory basis then I'd not be so worried. But as it is now, it seems that we are headed for a situation where you can choose to have only the basic (nonHD) channels on terestrial, or pay money to a monopoly. We don't get cable round here, nor are we ever likely to !
On a separate topic, I disagree with the OfCom guys analysis of broadband/ADSL deployment. We do not have even the 99.9% (or whatever misleadingly high figure is given) coverage. Nor did we get here without intervention.
Had it been left to market forces then there would still be many, many, many echanges with no broadband at all. For those living in dense urban areas (the cherries ripe for picking) there would be loads of options - better than we have now I think. For those (like myself) living in less densely populated areas I think we would still be waiting for an expensive slow service. In other words, we'd have a similar situation to that with Cable - only the most lucrative areas ever got service, in spite of licence obligations that seem to have been forgotten. Whilst it may not have been 'regulation' as strictly defined, there was definitely pressure put on BT to cut prices and lower the threshold for exchange conversions - this led to both an improvement of availability of BT provided services, and the death for many years of alternatives since these price cuts undermined the business case for unbundled service providers.
In many areas there WAS public money invested (Scottish Highlands comes to mind, from memory) in rural areas to effectively subsidise BT to equip exchanges that would otherwise have been uneconomic. I also recall reading about a legal challenge concerning the effects on a private investment plan of public funding for ADSL deployment in Wales. In Cumbria, I can tell him that there is STILL public money being invested (lookup Project Access). I don't believe this is the only project still being publically funded.
Aren't the government already in bed with SKY?
In our area there is no plan to make digital TV available other than by satellite. They are going to turn off our old repeater transmitter and that is it. When I complained I was told we would be able to get free digital TV by getting a SKY box.
When I complained that you could only get a SKY box with a BT line which not everyone had, they came up with a new cut price (more expensive as you now have to pay for it and dish installation) offering which Sky will provide without their channels so we have been told.