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UK Prime Minister Pledges Reform to Improve Rural Broadband

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016 (2:50 pm) - Score 1,190
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The Prime Minister, Theresa May, has this afternoon hinted at the Conservative Party conference that she anticipates making a bigger state intervention to improve areas like rural broadband connectivity, energy and transport. But does this suggest something new or is it merely a rehash of existing strategy.

The Government’s Broadband Delivery UK programme, which is coupled to a total public investment of £1.6bn, is currently rolling out fixed line “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) to cover 95% of the United Kingdom by the end of 2017 (rising to 97-98% by 2019) and they’ve already passed the 91% mark. Not to mention the investment from private operators like BT (Openreach), Gigaclear and so forth.

On top of that the Government has also proposed a new Universal Service Obligation (USO) for broadband, which is expected to focus on the final 1-3% and would deliver at least a minimum Internet download speed of 10Mbps; the details of this are still being thrashed out.

However in listening to today’s speech you’d perhaps be forgiven for feeling that the new Government, under Theresa May, might have bigger plans.

Theresa May, UK Prime Minister, said:

“Where companies are exploiting the failures of the market in which they operate, where consumer choice is inhibited by deliberately complex pricing structures, we must set the market right. It’s just not right, for example, that half the people living in rural areas and so many small businesses can’t get a decent broadband connection.”

Over the past month we’ve seen plenty of reports that hint towards the prospect fresh investment in national infrastructure, but actual specifics have been impossible to find. At the same time political parties, especially those in Government, have a nasty habit of re-announcing existing policies with fresh wording and so we must always be cautious in our expectations.

On top of all this we’re still awaiting the outcome to Ofcom’s Strategic Review, which most crucially will decide whether Openreach is to remain a part of the BT Group or be completely split. At this stage it’s unclear whether May’s speech could thus be seen to reflect the possibility of a radically new strategy based around an independent Openreach, although we wouldn’t bet on it.. yet.

For all we know the Prime Minister could merely be dressing-up the proposed USO and existing BDUK plans in fancy new clothes, albeit without much real change, which seems as if it could be the most likely outcome. In any case we should finally find out the answer when next month’s Autumn Statement 2016 is released.

Much may also depend upon how the Prime Minister defines “rural” and “decent broadband” (i.e. 10Mbps+, 24Mbps+, 100Mbps+? Your guess is as good as ours).

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Mark Jackson
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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10 Responses
  1. Avatar Patrick

    I don’t like much of what she’s doing generally, but there’s no doubt she’s trying to reach the parts that the posh boys didn’t bother with. Mr Vaizey must be grinding his teeth to stumps. I can see it now. “Better broadband for ordinary working rural people!”

    • Avatar timeless

      to be honest its all just double speak to me.. for the past 6 years we have been told that the NHS is safe in their hands and that they are doing things for our benefit.. yet despite all these nice sounding ideas that are supposed to benefit us they always end up making us worse off..

      Tories are all about pulling the wool over our eyes by telling us what we want to hear while doing the opposite.

    • Avatar wireless pacman

      Not “Tories”, just “politicians”! 🙂

    • Avatar Regis

      Wheres the “if we win the next election” bit?

      Tell you what mind IF she does do something i will be very impressed.

  2. Avatar Dave

    All Hot air and I bet I will still be waiting for a usable broadband connection well after 2020.
    But not unless you count ‘subsidized’ satelllite of coarse!

  3. Avatar Robert Scriven

    I wish BT would hurry up with long reach vdsl, my 16mb is now 10mb!

    GFAST wont help me one bit when that comes, fast get faster, slow just get left behind.

  4. Avatar Optimist

    I wonder what the PM’s reaction would be if telcos were to tell her that their expansion plans were now on hold until the government rescinded the tax hike on their infrastructure?

  5. Avatar Phil Coates

    Hammond intends to borrow because interest rates are so low – maybe, just maybe they have a plan after all.

  6. Avatar G Crick

    rural broadband to castles

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