Britain Promises Broadband Access For All

While US lawmakers hew and haw over providing Internet expansion tax credits to telecommunications outfits willing to bring broadband to the outback, British officials are doing them one better. Believe it or not, every last home in Britain will be "guaranteed access to broadband Internet under plans unveiled by the government on Thursday," which reportedly placed Internet access on par with telephones as "essential services."

Culture Secretary Andy Burnham told lawmakers in the House of Commons: "We are developing plans to move towards an historic universal service commitment for broadband and digital services." We're forced to look all the way back to 1840 in order to find something similar for comparison, as that year universal service obligations were used to promise each Briton access to postal services. Of course, you could just peek back to 1984 when another USO was used to ensure every citizen had access to a phone, but at any rate, it's easy to see just how rare such a movement is.

The British government is wrapping this initiative in with another: to upgrade its radio signals from analog to digital before the world places its eyes on London during the 2012 Olympic Games. Prime Minister Gordon Brown noted that "digital technology would be as important to Britain's prosperity in the 21st economy as roads, bridges, trains and electricity were in the 20th century," and truthfully, we can't find a good reason to argue.

A final report that outlines the unquestionably gigantic plan is expected to surface later this year, and you can bet that other nations will be peering over each and every page as they too ponder the eventual ubiquity of Internet in their own lands. Who knows -- maybe one day WiFi routers really will be as plentiful as CCTV cameras are in the UK.