Has the Government just laid down a new performance benchmark for online industries?

The Digital Britain report’s plans to ensure that everyone has access to 2mpbs broadband by 2012 has mostly attracted attention for the low speed being aimed for and the ways in which it will be funded.

However, two other aspects are notable. First, 2012 is not very far away. Indeed, as targets arising from long-term reports go, it’s pretty darn close. Second, the underlying rationale – stop the internet exacerbating social exclusion – is one that means it may well mutate into a standard that internet services are expected to meet.

Take the example of councils webcasting their meetings. At the moment, there is no common performance standard such webcasts are expected to meet. But once 2mpbs has become the established minimum, it will become the obvious standard by which to judge future proposals:

Does your proposed solution help reduce social exclusion by working fully over the minimum internet speed available to all? Yes / No

Which supplier is going to want to risk having to answer “no”? Similarly, it can become a positive part of the pitch from suppliers: our service works well over the minimum speed (unlike nasty rivals who exclude people by requiring a faster internet connection blah blah blah).

By design or not, it looks to me like the Government has landed industry with a benchmark against which to be judged.

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