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The UK computer games industry has responded critically to the government’s proposals to ensure universal broadband access, with publishers and games developers expressing reservations over the plans.

In the recently unveiled interim Digital Britain report, Lord Carter pledged that by 2012 every household in the UK should have access to a broadband network, with a connection speed of no less than 2Mb. However, the report did not set out concrete plans for a fibre optic network, which could deliver faster broadband speeds and improve gamers’ online experience.

As it stands, many gamers complain of high levels of ping when using slower broadband connections. This means that they are often unable to react as fast as they would like in games, leaving them at a disadvantage and impairing gameplay.

In response to the report, earlier this week the founder of Eidos Ian Livingstone said that the report had done little to aid the games industry financially by offering tax breaks and incentives. Now the UK’s games publishers’ trade body has weighed in. Michael Rawlinson, managing director of the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA), said that although any attempt to improve broadband speeds is welcome, a minimum higher connection speed would be needed to provide a real fillip for online gaming.

Mr Rawlinson commented: "We appreciate the government's ambition to roll out universal broadband throughout the UK, as laid out in Lord Carter's interim report. This will help the games industry as it moves increasingly online.”

However, he added that the games publishers that he represents harbour significant “concerns that the 2Mb broadband speed proposed is too slow, and we look forward to speaking to the government about this, and more, in due course”.

News of the muted response comes as Be Broadband, which has largely cornered the market for gamer-targeted broadband, has launched a new incentive that appears to be aimed squarely at gamers. Under the terms of the deal, all new customers are offered a free gift worth £40, with a choice of a year’s subscription to tech bible T3, games vouchers or £40 of credit. This is available to anyone who opts for its Be Unlimited, Be Value or Be Pro offers.

The offer of games vouchers follows the launch of the Be Gamer site last year, as well as the introduction of an option to customers configure their own settings so they can be optimised for playing games online.

According to a spokesperson for the ISP, gamers have responded positively to the site – something that he perceives can be attributed in part to rival companies’ ignoring gamers’ needs. He explained: “We have had a great reaction from the launch of Be Gamer. The general feedback was that it was refreshing that an ISP was putting some time and investment into the gamer community.

“Since launch, we have gained valuable feedback from a group of dedicated gamers. All that feedback is going into the next iteration of the site, which will be developed soon.”

Be Broadband’s service already enjoys popularity among gamers for the faster broadband speeds it delivers, with users receiving a connection speed of up to 24Mb. Research conducted by the company found that 25 per cent of its customer base use their broadband connection for games every day, 40 per cent at least every week and over 50 per cent at least every month.

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