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UK ISPs Believe the Country Will NOT Have the Best Broadband in Europe by 2015

Posted: 10th Nov, 2011 By: MarkJ
fibre_optic_broadband_internet_cable.jpgUK Internet Service Providers AssociationA snap vote at this year's annual conference of the UK Internet Service Providers Association ( ISPA ), which was held yesterday and attended by around 120 representatives' from the country's ISP industry (126 people registered), has revealed that the overwhelming majority of attendants did not expect the UK to meet the government's target of having "the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015".

The government's Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) office has always planned to meet this goal by using its budget of £530m (rising to £830m by 2017) to ensure that 90% of "people in each local authority area" can access a superfast broadband (24Mbps+) ISP service by 2015 (the remaining 10% will get a minimum speed of at least 2Mbps).

By contrast Europe's wider Digital Agenda seeks to bring basic broadband to 100% of Europeans by 2013, and superfast 30Mbps+ services by 2020 (with 50% or more using a 100Mbps product). However some countries, such as Sweden, already have affordable 100Mbps capable fibre optic ( FTTH ) networks in the ground. Beating those countries might require a bit of creative spin.

The Secretary of State (DCMS), Jeremy Hunt, said in August 2011 (here):

"I am absolutely determined that the UK will have the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015 – one that we all benefit from. Fast broadband is absolutely vital to our economic growth, to delivering public services effectively, and to conducting our everyday lives."

Sadly the vast majority of the UK's internet industry does not expect the government to meet its target. This was highlighted when the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of business ISP Timico UK, Trefor Davies, asked the audience "who thinks the uk will have the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015?"

Trefor Davies said:

"Only one person, from BT, put their hands up (and there were at least 5 BT employees in the audience). Turning the question around as a check I asked who thought that the UK would not have the best network by 2015. Most hands went up.

I think the debate and the political rhetoric needs to change to reflect this."

BT is widely expected to be the main beneficiary of any public funding, although at this stage it's still too early to know precisely how much of the BDUK budget will actually go their way. In any case we weren't surprised to see at least one of BT's hands being raised, although clearly their other employees felt differently.

Scepticism of government targets is of course nothing new; in fact it's practically a national pastime. Few of us ever expect governments to meet their targets or stay within budget, which is borne out by a history of failures and creative reporting. So nobody should be surprised at the result of Trefor's vote, which merely reinforces what many industry figures have been saying for awhile.
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