UK government delivers superfast broadband target, still more to be done

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The UK government has delivered on its manifesto commitment to extend superfast broadband to 95 per cent of homes by the end of 2017, according to Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) secretary of state Matt Hancock.

The press release issued by DCMS cites figures recently published by thinkbroadband, which demonstrate that some 19 out of 20 UK homes and businesses are now able to upgrade their internet connections to superfast speeds of 24Mb/s. Hancock stated that the £1.7 billion rollout of superfast broadband over the past five years to areas that may otherwise have missed out has now reached 4.5 million premises.

This commitment to roll-out superfast broadband to 95 per cent of the UK population by the end of 2017 was overseen by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), and saw around £1.6 billion of public investment from both local and national authorities. The next phase, which was outlined in the Autumn Statement, saw a pledge by government to make at least a further £1 billion available for investment in digital infrastructure under the new National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF), which was created with £23 billion to improve roads, rail and other key infrastructure assets over the period to April 2021. Of this, £740 million is to be used to stimulate the roll out of fibre networks and support 5G mobile connectivity trials (see Policy shift sees the UK start on a full fibre diet). The government also recently confirmed its plans to deliver broadband speeds of at least 10Mb/s by 2020 to everyone, via a regulatory universal service obligation (USO) (see UK government rejects BT's voluntary USO proposal).

DCMS Secretary of State, Matt Hancock said: ‘We’ve delivered on our commitment to reach 95% of homes and businesses in the UK, but there’s still more to do in our work building a Britain that’s fit for the future. We’re reaching thousands more premises every single week, and the next commitment is to making affordable, reliable, high speed broadband a legal right to everyone by 2020.’

Responding to the announcement, Matthew Hare, chief executive at Gigaclear believes the message is a positive one, but that there is more to be done. He said: ‘It’s a fantastic achievement that an estimated 95% of the UK can now access superfast broadband. However, we must do better as only 3% have access to ultrafast, full fibre broadband. Operators must now accelerate the investment in their new high-speed networks, especially in rural locations. This means prioritising and investing in full fibre that can deliver future-proof connections and speeds to secure this country’s digital economy. Gigaclear will contribute to this work, alongside the Government to ensure the UK telecoms industry delivers a full fibre UK.’

Openreach also believes that this is just the first step, and has followed the government’s announcement with one of its own – the launch of its ‘fibre first programme’ which aims to ‘fire the starting pistol’ on a potentially huge upgrade of critical UK infrastructure. Stated CEO, Clive Selley: ‘The government announced 95 per cent of the country are now able to experience high speed broadband and all the benefits that brings. Passing more than 27 million homes and businesses with superfast broadband is a momentous milestone, but it is also a stepping stone to something much bigger. As a first step, we’re accelerating our FTTP build programme by 50% to reach three million homes and businesses by the end of 2020. We’re keen to get going and building work will start in a few months in an initial eight cities – Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, London, and Manchester.’

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