Uncertainties surrounding next-generation broadband must be resolved within two years if the UK is not to lose its competitive edge and suffer a widening digital divide.
The claim forms part of a year-long study by the Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG), the government's advisory group on broadband and digital convergence.
According to the report, broadband is the critical enabling infrastructure of the UK's modern knowledge-based economy, yet the current and planned broadband infrastructure may not be able to meet the needs of the most intensive users.
The BSG believes that the market may not be able to deliver the ever-increasing bandwidth that many content providers and users increasingly expect.
In addition, a number of key nations in Europe are deploying networks that are capable of delivering much higher access speeds than are currently available in the UK.
Conversely, there seems to be little prospect for the widespread deployment of next-generation broadband in the UK, despite the significant benefits to the economy, including improved productivity and innovation, according to the BSG.
"Broadband is key to the UK economy and has a critical impact on many people's daily lives," said BSG chairman Kip Meek.
"We have a limited window of opportunity. If steps are not taken now to prepare for next-generation broadband, we may find ourselves in a position where it is too late to catch up.
"This is not special pleading on the behalf of broadband providers, but a call to policy makers and regulators, as well as to the commercial participants in the industry, to put significant effort into understanding the dynamics of the market.
"Failure to act on the issue of next-generation broadband will be to the detriment of our economy and our society."
The BSG's aim is to raise awareness of the issues related to the deployment of next-generation access networks with government, regulators and industry.
The organisation also wants to provoke further discussion and inform policy development, and to suggest a number of actions that can move this debate onto the next stage.
- Broadband Stakeholder Group report: Pipe Dreams: Prospects for next generation broadband
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