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Nothing New as Government Responds to EFRA UK Rural Broadband Report

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 (4:58 pm) - Score 618

The Government has today issued its official response to the recent Select Committee report for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, which called for a 10Mbps minimum broadband speed to be adopted and suggested a few other tweaks. But most of the official response merely echoes existing policy and last week’s Budget 2015 announcement.

Readers might recall that we summarised the original report’s recommendations during February 2015 (here), but there wasn’t anything particularly new aside from suggesting that the current Universal Service Commitment (USC) speed of at least 2Mbps (due to be completed by early 2016) be increased to 10Mbps (Megabits per second).

Looking through today’s reply it’s clear to see that most of the Government’s remarks tend to focus on echoing what they’ve already committed to do and plan to do in the future, with mentions of a subsidy for Satellite broadband, the possibility of a 5Mbps Universal Service Obligation (USO) and plans to help support the roll-out of “ultra-fast” 100Mbps services having already been covered in last week’s budget (here). At least the Country, Land and Business Association (CLA) are happy.

Henry Robinson, CLA President, said:

In our evidence to the Select Committee I highlighted that it is fundamental to achieve a connected countryside for rural businesses and communities to thrive.

The Government’s response to the Committee’s report is a major step forward for the CLA rural broadband campaign. We are delighted to hear that the Government intends to subsidise the cost of installing superfast broadband solutions in hard-to-reach areas and has confirmed a delivery plan.

We called for a voucher scheme to install satellite and other technologies in hard-to-reach areas. It is the quickest, fairest and most cost-effective solution to offer those living and working in the countryside a grant to buy better broadband.”

One other interesting point did stem from concerns that the Government’s definition of “superfast” (24Mbps+) remains lower that Europe’s (30Mbps+). In its reply the Government said, “The European definition of 30Mbps has no specific technical or user basis for it. Most premises which can receive speeds over 24Mbps will also be able to receive speeds above the level of the European definition. The Government’s rollout is future proofed. It is a requirement of the broadband framework contract that solutions have an upgrade path; for example, [FTTC] could be upgraded to [FTTP] if needed.”

On the issue of a 5Mbps USO the CLA has separately called on the next Government to bring forward this consultation “as a priority to ensure the rural economy does not get left behind“. The key words here are “next government“, since there’s a good chance that the current administration may soon be changed and as such many of those Budget 2015 promises along with it.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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