With broadband being what many consider to be fourth utility then it is no surprise to see it feature in an infrastructure speech to the Institution of Civil Engineers. Particularly as we are expected the remaining six cities in the ten to be announced that will share £100m to create super connected cities (the four capitals, Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London are already known).
ISPreview has managed to corner the broadband chunk of the speech, but we wanted to highlight a short section of this that is relevant to what the Chancellor will announce in Budget on Wednesday.
"And this week the Chancellor will be announcing ten super connected cities which will have universal access to ultra fast 100 megabit broadband, making them some of the fastest and best connected cities anywhere in the world."Prime Minister David Cameron talking to Institution of Civil Engineers
So it seems the Prime Minister is promising universal access to 100 Mbps broadband in the ten cities. This is in line with what some cities have outlined in their plans previously, but the key is what is meant by universal? Most people reading the speech will assume it means 100% of the city will have access to 100 Mbps broadband. If that is the case then we will be very shocked, what we are expecting is cities to concentrate on a little more fibre to the premises in a couple of high profile areas, and rely on improvements to VDSL2 such as vectoring to hit the 100 Mbps target.
So while the UK can aspire to be a global leader in telecommunications, it seems the commercial lead approach to telecommunications is failing and not just in the final third, but even in the cities where competition has been the key driver and remit given to Ofcom by consecutive Governments.
Hopefully the various local authorities will ensure that the 90% target for superfast broadband is met well ahead of the May 2015 deadline, and that in the final 10% the requirement for a functional 2 Mbps will be seen as a baseline, with speeds being delivered to those areas in the 5 to 15 Mbps range.
In the hope that someone may notice, we will repeat what we have said before, that the planning needs to start now for what will happen in the longer term for broadband, i.e. 2015 to 2020. Otherwise we will have a two year gap after the next General Election, like we have had since 2010, resulting in lots of speeches and announcements, but very little progress apart from the production of shiny reports.