Earlier today the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, announced the government will spend £830 million in a drive to give the UK the best broadband network in Europe by 2015. Hunt outlined the ambition to push forward the governments plans to get superfast broadband to every community in the country by creating a “digital hub” connected by fibre optics.
Mr Hunt said the plan, which ministers regard as vital to the UK’s economic growth, aims to stimulate private sector investment by creating a reliable and secure superfast network.
This announcement saw a further £50 million invested, in a second wave of pilot projects to test how digital hubs can be extended to all communities, including those in remote rural areas.
Hunt stated that:
“A superfast network will be the foundation for a new economic dynamism, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and adding billions to our GDP…But it is not just about the economy, around the world there are countless examples of superfast broadband helping to build a fairer and more prosperous society, and to transform the relationship between government and citizens…And shifting government services online will save billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money…We want the UK to have the best broadband system in Europe by 2015. Our strategy, backed by a £830 million Government investment, will help deliver that by stimulating private investment and competition.”
There will also be moves to cut the costs of access to communications infrastructure in addition to new awards of 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum to allow the development of next-generation mobile services.
The Federation of Small Businesses reacted to the announcement today stating they are:
“pleased the Government is taking action to improve access to broadband across the UK by 2015, they are not taking small, rural firms’ problems with their service seriously. FSB research shows that all regions, except London, have issues with access to broadband and insufficient speeds – our members have told us that 2 Mbps is too low and the FSB is concerned that the programme to invest in fibre-optic broadband is underfunded.”
“The Government has said there is no business case for providers to set up broadband in rural areas, but for rural firms it is essential that they have access to reliable broadband to expand their businesses, grow and innovate so they can take on new members of staff and generate income for the economy. We need to see a truly universal service obligation put in place. If the Government ignores these rural firms, it sends the message that this sector doesn’t count.”
Other critics of the announcement have pointed out that the plans do not address some of the fundamental problems with the way that BT controls the infrastructure or the inequalities in the way that BT is charged for fibre compared to small companies, both of which could be pivotal factors in this programs success.