Yesterday, speaking at the Race Online 2012 conference, the Culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, set out some specific goals that the UK should meet to ensure we are competitive in the coming years with our broadband services. A previous aim of "best superfast broadband network in Europe" by 2015 has been qualified to say that 90% of the UK should have access to 25Mbps broadband by this date.
This is a key milestone that may prove tough to reach. BT proposed that they could deploy super-fast broadband to 90% of the country by 2017, two years after the government proposal, but this would only be possible if they were given access to the full £830 million of funding that has been assigned up to this date. The key point may be in more focused local deployments were using a more appropriate access technology could help drive efficiencies and cost savings when compared with a national one-size-fits-all fibre-to-the-cabinet project.
"If we press ahead with expansion of superfast capabilities, we can put the 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.
"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,"Jeremy Hunt, Culture Secretary
The government are relying on local authorities to guide investment in their local areas through bids to BDUK for funding. However, many local authorities have already progressed plans and put bids to BDUK which might fall short of the target that has now been set. Wiltshire Council have for example recently put in a bid for funding but with a goal of 85% coverage of faster broadband, which they may need to adjust to meet the targets that have just been set out.
Hunt also announced that Ofcom would publish an annual league table of local authorities, starting next month, which will show how they are progressing in deploying broadband to the area. New pilot schemes for broadband deployments with funding from BDUK will be announced on the 27th of May.