Communications Minister Stephen Carter has backed comments by the Prime Minister Gordon Brown that suggest the government is considering investing in a new fibre network enabling everyone in the UK to access high-speed broadband.
Lord Carter is expected to publish his initial Digital Britain report later this month, and according to The Guardian, Carter dropped hints to the Westminster eForum that the plans will feature heavily in the report.
"Today we are way beyond the view that broadband is a niche product, it is an enabling and transformational service and therefore we have to look at how we can universalise it," he said.
Carter also said the government intended to improve the media and digital literacy of Brits.
The cost of transferring the UK's existing copper network to a new high-speed fibre system that's capable of offering homes in Britain 100Mbps broadband has been estimated at between £15bn and £24.5bn.
Initially, it was thought telecommunications companies including BT would foot the bill. However, recently BT's shareholders raised concerns over the level of investment and economic return in providing 10 million homes with 100Mbps fibre-based broadband by 2012. Substantial investment from the government could help quell these fears.
The Digital Britain report will also be expected to include a draft proposal to merge Channel 4 and Channel Five to create a bigger and better commercial broadcasting service that will be in operation by 2012, in a bid to fix the 150m funding shortfall Channel 4 claims it will face.