The BBC could have a part to play in the rollout of next-generation broadband based on optical-fibre networks, according to communications minister Lord Carter.
Asked about how such a rollout would be funded and whose "pocket we could pinch from", by Conservative MP for Bromsgrove Julie Kirkbride, Carter said: " Is there a role for the BBC? Possibly, is the answer to that."
Carter was speaking to MPs yesterday. fielding questions about the content of the interim Digital Britain report from the Commons Business and Enterprise committee.
He said that more people were getting their media from the internet, and that even the lowest level of predictions were that 20 per cent of media consumption will be internet-based rather than any other form.
"If that's the case could you not see the nation's state-funded content provider having a role? It would seem to me you would," said Carter.
The minister also backed Ofcom's recent announcement in relation to broadband pricing and the regulatory regime being considered after BT's announcement that it will deploy fibre-to-the-cabinet for 40 per cent of the population.
"We’re just making clear that government would be supportive of large players like BT being allowed to make a reasonable return on investment,” said Carter.
Kirkbride also questioned Carter about the universal service commitment (USC) for residential users of up to 2Mbit/s.
"How does the government expect this USC to be reached by 2012?" she asked.
Carter said the USC would be in place, but would be subject to a three-stage process.
"First, we need to change and adapt the European law on broadband provision, which currently specifies only a 'functioning internet capability of 56kbit/s', " he said.
The second stage would be a technical design question, said Carter, "based on capability and cost, i.e. fixed, mobile or satellite connections have their place depending on where you are in the country."
Finally, a funding structure would be required, which Carter said would be a partnership. "We've always been of the view that it would be a public/private tie-up," he said.
Asked when the final Digital Britain report would see the light of day, Carter said that it would be out before parliament's summer recess. "It's our ambition to release the final report to tie in when the European Framework review concludes," he said.
The full meeting can be viewed at the House of Commons (Parliament Live) web site.