The UK’s Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) has outlined plans to invest a further GBP250 million (USD382million) in order to ensure that 95% of the population has access to superfast broadband – i.e. at a speed of 25Mbps or more – by 2017. The money, the department noted, will come from existing TV licence fee funds, and it is expected that it will be matched by local authorities in order to bring the total extra public investment to GBP500 million. Commenting on the plans, Culture Secretary Maria Miller said: ‘Access to high speed connectivity is vital to the UK’s economic future, and drives growth and jobs across the country. Every week, 100,000 more homes and businesses are getting access to superfast broadband, and our broadband is already among the best in Europe when it comes to coverage, usage, and choice. But we want to go even further and that’s why we are now setting a new target to reach 95% of premises by 2017.’
Meanwhile, looking further ahead chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, was cited by V3.co.uk as saying that the government aims to ensure that 99% of the country can access superfast services by 2018, be that by wired or wireless connections. ‘We will work closely with the industry to ensure that at least 99% of the UK have access to superfast broadband –whether that’s fixed, wireless or 4G – by 2018,’ he was cited as saying.
Under previously announced plans the UK government had aimed to ensure that only 90% of the population had access to superfast broadband, although it expected to achieve that goal by end-2015. In order to achieve its target the state had named a number of actions it would take, including: investing GBP530 million to stimulate commercial investment and bring high speed broadband to rural communities; investing GBP150 million in ‘super-connected cities’ across the UK with access to 80Mbps-100Mbps broadband speeds; and removing red tape to make it easier to deploy broadband infrastructure.
Not all has run smoothly, however, and as reported by CommsUpdate earlier this week, the Super Connected Cities Programme (SCCP) to create 22 ‘super-connected cities’ is said to have been scaled back following legal challenges. Under the original plan, in March 2012 chancellor George Osborne announced that Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds/Bradford, Newcastle and Manchester, along with the four UK capital cities, had all successfully bid to share GBP100 million to help deliver superfast broadband services. The proposals from the ten cities reportedly involved providing superfast access to around 1.7 million premises and 200,000 businesses by 2015. Now, however, the money looks set to be given instead to small businesses as vouchers designed to pay for the installation of faster broadband.