Current hot topics - tell us what you think.

augmented reality

Several recent presentations and conversations have stimulated my thoughts with respect to discussions at the Advisory Committee for England (ACE), where we have been debating issues raised by new communication technologies, such as the Internet and social media, for meeting the needs of communities in cities.

Sci fi becomes reality
ipad user

Much press has been devoted to addressing the speed of broadband services to households: Do they live up to the advertised rates? Can consumers understand what they are buying and what speeds they actually receive? It is great that the Guardian and other papers are raising the salience of this issue, but I would like to add two points.

The next digital divide?
Electromagnetic field

As Chair of the Ofcom Advisory Committee for England, I’ve received a letter from a member of the public concerned about the potential harmful effects from ‘radiation’ caused by mobile networks.

The recent and rapid spread of mobile phones has raised questions over the health risks, especially for children, as discussed in an earlier post on Advice to Ofcom.

Regulation Addressing Risks of Exposure to Electro Magnetic Fields
Facebook silhouettes

Alison Preston from the consumer research team presented findings from Ofcom’s Media Literacy Audit at a workshop on 24 April, where she compared findings with results of the Oxford Internet Surveys. Ofcom’s work highlighted continuing growth in use of the Internet. While its diffusion is still incremental, the use by those who have the Internet is expanding.

Social networking drives growing internet usage
Hyperlocal media

I contribute to a blog about news and views from my road. I also use the Internet to find out about local events, schools, services, and to get directions and even find out where I am through maps available online, as well as where my friend is, so we can meet in town. These are examples of ‘hyperlocal’ media focused on small geographic areas that define communities.

Hyperlocal media thrives on the net!
Martha Lane Fox

It is good to learn of the new brief for Martha Lane Fox in launching the ‘Go On UK’ campaign, which is focusing attention on encouraging small companies and charities to utilize the Internet. The Advisory Committee for England has been supporting a greater focus on small and medium sized companies across the nations and regions of the UK, arguing that this is one of the most effective ways to support the vitality of the economy.

Internet a missed opportunity for many businesses and charities
mobile phone child.jpg

More than half of children now use mobile phones. For parents and carers, this can increase confidence that their child is safe, thanks to regular contact.

But is this tool to check children are safe actually putting their health at risk?

This is a topic which has been raised with several members of the Advisory Committee for England, and we'd welcome comments on how we can all work towards more definite answers to these questions.

Scientific research has not found evidence of links between health risks and mobile phones.

Protecting children from potential mobile phone health hazards

Anyone with an interest in communications in the UK should be aware of the ‘Consumer Forum for Communications’ which has a useful online and offline presence on consumer issues. Some of the recent posts have dealt with digital terrestrial television, 4G mobile, and the recent consultation by BIS on the consumer landscape.

The contact person at Ofcom for the CFC is Liz Hall, and the forum is moderated by Claire Milne, who has long been active in consumer issues tied to telecommunications and broadcasting in the UK.

A forum for consumer engagement

The Advisory Committee for England has been following Ofcom’s preparations in supporting communication services for the Olympics.

While not the subject of much press attention, the scale of the challenge and the work undertaken on this project have been impressive. At a recent presentation we were shown a video which highlights the crucial, behind the scenes work that's being done to ensure the Olympics are a success. Watch it here.

Ofcom and the Olympics
Generic bubbles

There have been been significant changes to administrative structures relevant to Ofcom over the years, such as the creation of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) – of which there are over 60 - as a replacement for the nine Regional Development Agencies, which means that it is no longer possible to frame interaction with Ofcom on a regional/local basis as we once did within Advisory Committee for England (ACE).

What are the Key Issues for the Advisory Committee for England?