Jeremy Hunt, the UK's culture secretary has today spoken on broadband for the first time and put forward a "series of actions" that he hopes will help boost our broadband infrastructure to be comparable with other countries around the world.
The previous governments commitment to roll out 2Mbps broadband to everyone under a universal service commitment (USC) is described as "paltry" but necessary and will hence remain in place, using the underspend of the digital switch over budget to fund this as per Labour's original plans. The second step is to launch 3 test projects that will bring super-fast broadband to some rural areas which will be hard to reach. The aim is to firstly, bring this new service to these areas, but also to provide vital information about how government can best target their resources in ensuring next generation broadband can reach all areas. Broadband Delivery UK, set up under the Labour government to drive the USC to every home and manage next-generation roll out, will manage these projects. The location of the 3 test areas was not announced.
The third area to address is access to infrastructure. Ofcom is already investigating opening up access to BT's ducts and poles but other infrastructure is also available such as ducts from other telecommunications providers, gas, electricity and water utilities and also the sewers (as are already used in some areas). With access to these, it could save large costs as network providers would not need to dig up roads, one aspect that can bring a high cost to deploying broadband.
A consultation will take place with the government publishing a paper on 15th July welcoming comment and knowledge learnt from the industry to try and help boost our broadband delivery and bring it in to line with various other countries. The governments goal from this: "within this parliament we want Britain to have the best superfast broadband network in Europe."; an optimistic aim.
"It is a scandal that nearly 3 million households in this country still cannot access 2 Mbps broadband speeds, and less than 1% of the country is able to access the internet using modern fibre optic technology – compared to an OECD average of around 10%.
Some people ask why we need these speeds when the iPlayer can manage on less than one Mpbs.
They are missing the point.
Superfast broadband is not simply about doing the same things faster. It's about doing totally new things – creating a platform on which a whole generation of new businesses can thrive.
The Federation of Small Businesses has estimated that a superfast network could add £18 billion to GDP and create 60,000 jobs. NESTA thinks it could be ten times that – 600,000 new jobs."Jeremy Hunt, UK Culture Secretary
So generally, the speech helps solidify the Conservative party plans set out for broadband and it's good to see the 2Mbps commitment for all will hold place, although some are encouraging broadband providers to act sooner than this to get the USC delivered.
"We have also committed to delivering 2Mbps to everyone within our service area by March next year - well ahead of the Digital Economy Bill deadline. We are urging other operators to follow suit so that everyone around the country can benefit from a quality broadband service.Nick Thompson, (Director of Consumer Services), KC (formerly Kingston Communications)
The full speech by Jeremy Hunt is available from the governments culture.gov.uk website.