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Government Plans 90 Percent UK Coverage of 25Mb Superfast Broadband by 2015

Posted: 13th May, 2011 By: MarkJ
superfast broadband ukUK DCMS broadband internet policyThe UK governments Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Jeremy Hunt, has told Race Online 2012's National Digital Conference that he wants 90% of "people in each local authority area" to have access to a superfast (25Mbps+) broadband ISP service by 2015.

The move represents a potentially significant improvement over the original 'Britain's Superfast Broadband Future ' national strategy, which somewhat vaguely called for the country to have the "best broadband in Europe" by 2015. Mr Hunt also reiterated his Universal Service Commitment (USC) to ensure that everybody in the country also had access to a minimum internet download speed of at least 2Mbps by the same year.

Crucially Hunt went even further and finally moved to tackle the long running debate over superfast broadband definitions ('The Definition of UK Superfast Next Generation') by agreeing with Ofcom UK's original download speed figure of "25Mbps or better". However, as per usual, upload performance has been completely ignored.

Mr Hunt said:

"If we press ahead with expansion of superfast capabilities, then we can put UK in the global fast-lane. If we fail to do so then we apply a handbrake to growth precisely when we need to power ahead.

The market is expected to provide superfast broadband to around two thirds of the country. The Government is supporting the roll-out of superfast broadband to the third of UK homes and businesses that would otherwise miss out.

County councils, unitary authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships can apply for a share of the £530m. They must develop a local broadband plan setting out how superfast broadband access will be rolled-out in their area.

We have set aside the money and the expertise to make this happen. Now local authorities need to step up to the plate by bringing forward their own plans setting out how they will deliver this level of ambition."

The Culture Secretary also announced that he would work with Ofcom to publish an annual league table of broadband performance in each local authority area, the first of which will be published in June 2011. The data should show how various areas are progressing, which will certainly be interesting to see.

Ofcom's latest March 2011 report revealed that the current average fixed-line UK internet download speed is 6.2Mbps (Megabits per second), which is up from 5.2Mbps in May 2010 and 4.1Mb in April 2009 (full details). Nationally we're nowhere close to 25Mbps.

It's unclear quite how the table will be constructed; although anything based upon consumer adoption is likely to be of only minimal use for gauging superfast broadband coverage. Many people still use the older and often cheaper connectivity solutions, which will take time to change.

The government has currently set aside a national broadband improvement budget of £530m until 2015, which is being managed by the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) office. This is widely expected to reach £830m by 2017 and will focus on mostly rural locations, where private sector investment will not go. Approximately £50m of this has already been set aside for the second batch of 4 to 5 projects, which will be announced at the end of this month.
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