Britain will lay out its funding plans for universal broadband coverage and endorse a move to allow closer co-operation between cash-strapped broadcasters when it unveils its vision for a digital future.

Communications Minister Lord Carter is expected to publish his keenly-awaited Digital Britain report on Tuesday which will outline the government's thinking on a range of subjects from dealing with illegal file sharing, advertising downturns and broadband supply.

The industry will be keen to see how much public money is available for the major projects.

Carter said in the interim report in January that Britain would work to provide Internet access to the whole country at around 2 Megabits per second (Mb) through a mixture of fixed and wireless connections by 2012.

He has spent the intervening months seeking agreement from the five mobile operators, and agreeing the ownership of spectrum, and working with BT on how best the industry can roll out nationwide coverage.

BT believes that fixed-line is the best way to provide coverage and has said giving any extra spectrum to mobile operators would be an unjustified subsidy.

Some 15 percent of British homes are currently unable to receive broadband at the required speed and BT has said it could address the coverage gap from 85 percent of homes to 93 percent of homes with relatively simple solutions.

The options include moving customers onto more advanced and efficient ADSL2+ technology, sending engineers to raise speeds and using a small device called an iPlate which eliminates electrical interference to increase speeds.

BT said getting beyond 93 percent would be harder however but could involve deploying fiber, using satellite or a broadband extension technology which bonds two copper lines together, but which could require public funding.

Carter's report is likely to outline whether and how much public funding would be available.


Within the broadcasting sector, the report is likely to support a partnership or joint venture between struggling Channel 4, which is publicly owned but advertising funded, and the commercial arm of the BBC, BBC Worldwide.

The BBC, which is funded by a tax on every television-watching household, has become more receptive to a partnership in the last year as it does not want to give up, or allow top slicing, of its license fee.

BBC Worldwide is the commercial arm of the BBC which exploits the corporation's content through magazines such as Top Gear and sells program formats such as Strictly Come Dancing abroad.

RTL's Five had said it would be interested in acquiring Channel 4 but that possibility appears to have moved down the agenda in recent months, according to people familiar with the situation.

The report is also likely to address the provision of regional news for broadcasters such as ITV who have been hit by the advertising downturn and say they can no longer afford to make and broadcast it.

The government could ask for any surplus money which was given to the BBC to help customers move to digital television, to be used to fund regional news.

And Carter will also address the battle against online piracy.

His interim report in January said he intended to introduce legislation to force Internet service providers to crack down on Web piracy by sending our warning letters.

The creative industry has responded by saying it needs stronger measures such as slowing Internet connections and blocking some Web sites if the approach is to have any success.

(Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)