Culture minister Andy Burnham has highlighted the core set-top box as a possible means to achieve the 2 Mbps universal broadband access proposed in Lord Carter’s Digital Britain Report.
“There is the potential for the switchover programme to empower people in that way through looking at the core receiver requirements,” Burnham told the Broadcasting Press Guild. “The 10% who haven’t switched off probably don’t have broadband either.” His thinking will appeal to both Freeview and Freesat that are both looking to put broadband connectivity into their respective set-top boxes ahead of Project Canvas coming to fruition. The core set-top box is primarily issued to those who qualify under the Digital Switchover Help Scheme.
One of the proposals of the Digital Britain Report, expected to be finalised within the next few weeks, is to encourage the BBC to develop a role as Britain’s broadband champion, in much the same way it has sought to lead the digital switchover process itself.
Burnham acknowledged there to be a trade off between broadband speeds and universality, and said that while political thinking was leaning towards universal access, this did not rule out higher speeds in the future.
Despite the political crisis currently enveloping Westminster, Burnham confirmed he was looking to put legislation before Parliament once Lord Carter had issued his final report, when he was expecting further discussion. He added that he did not expect the Bill to be “the same animal” as the 2003 Communications Act.