The UK government is to spend £830m in a drive to give the UK ‘the best’ broadband network in Europe by 2015, it was announced today.
An action plan entitled Britain's Superfast Broadband Future, published by Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, sets out the ambition to create a "digital hub" in every community in the country by the end of this Parliament.
Linked to the nearest exchange by high-speed connections, the hubs would allow communities to extend the Internet network to every home.
Mr Hunt said the plan aimed to stimulate private sector investment and cut barriers to business investment in the reliable and secure superfast network, which ministers regard as vital to the UK's economic growth.
Ministers will invest £50m in a second wave of pilot projects to test how digital hubs can be extended to all communities, including those in remote rural areas.
And there will be moves to cut the costs of access to communications infrastructure and new awards of 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum to allow the development of next-generation mobile services.
Already, more than 70 per cent of UK households have broadband and nearly 50 per cent have access to a superfast 50 Mbps service.
Professor Will Stewart from The IET has welcomed today’s announcement of superfast broadband.
“The proposed broadband community hub system will be a big improvement for many in rural areas but may still, in practice, fall short of what some ISPs are currently offering and far short of what some countries, such as Japan, are offering” he said.
“While today’s announcement is good news, there is more to this than raw speed. A serious full-fibre system can offer near-unlimited bandwidth that will enable fully-competitive offerings from different suppliers to be run in parallel on a single fibre. This would really revolutionise the business.
“Demand for broadband is still rising, and by 2015 top-end users will probably be using more than a Gigabit. Real superfast broadband will be able to carry super-definition video, with 3D capability and more, an industry in which the UK leads. Although rural areas may lag behind, keeping the bulk of the population up to the world standard will be increasingly vital to preserve the UK's competitive trading position.”
The announcement comes shortly after BT announced it was ready to contribute further funding if it won public money in any of the government's tenders for work to bring fibre-optic cables to remote areas.
Mr Hunt said the development could see superfast broadband brought to 90 per cent of the population.