Spending on superfast broadband had been highlighted as a possible beneficiary of the current Governments plans to drive an economic recovery. The Chancellor's Statement to the House of Commons, manages a total of three mentions for broadband.
"For the first time we are identifying over 500 infrastructure projects we want to see built over the next decade and beyond. Roads, railways, airport capacity, power stations, waste facilities, broadband networks.
The Government is funding plans to bring superfast broadband to 90% of homes and businesses across the country, and extend mobile phone coverage to 99% of families.
This will help create a living, economically vibrant countryside.
Our great cities are at the heart of our regional economies.
And we will help bring world leading, superfast broadband and wifi connections to ten of them – including the capitals of all four nations."Extracts from Autumn Forecast Statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt Hon George Osborne MP
There was confirmation of some £20 billion of private investment in modern infrastructure, but no breakdown of how this agreement with two groups of British pension funds would be split around the various infrastructure projects.
The target of 90% of the UK having access to Superfast Broadband was a goal that we all previously knew about and is part of the BDUK remit, along with the ensuring 2 Mbps or faster for all. There is no talk of how the final 10% may get access to superfast broadband, with it seems an emphasis on providing both fixed and wireless superfast broadband in the cities.
Previous private investment by the BT Group and Virgin Media will pretty much ensure that all UK cities have access to superfast broadband by 2015, and even with the 4G auction delays, roll-out in the cities is likely to happen rapidly once the auctions are complete.
The Government has missed a chance to make a clear statement for those businesses and residents who live in the most rural 10% of the UK as to what they can expect in terms of broadband, and what new incentives would be created to encourage private investment in either commercial roll-outs, or capital investment support for community led schemes.
Now it is possible that the coming weeks may reveal further amounts beyond the existing £530m the BDUK has access to, and the £300m expected to be available in 2015 to 2017, but at a time when vision and direction is needed it appears to be lacking.