A House of Commons Select Committee for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has announced an inquiry into coverage, delivery and performance of superfast broadband in the UK, and into progress being made in extending and improving mobile coverage and services.
With the government having set out its stall to ensure that superfast broadband is available to 95% of UK premises by the end of 2017, earlier this year the National Audit Office reported that the Government’s programme was on track to meet the revised targets, with superfast broadband likely to reach 90% coverage of premises ahead of December 2016. However, with regards to the challenge of extending coverage to the nation’s hardest-to-reach rural areas and pockets of poor connectivity in inner cities, the Committee noted that the remaining 5% (approximately 1.5 million of premises) is dispersed across 70% of the UK’s landmass. With it noting that there is ‘marked concern’ both in Parliament and among the general public that many people in such areas may never have access to adequate broadband and mobile services, it suggested that this is already having a serious impact on them and the communities around them.
As such, the inquiry has invited written submissions in response to a number of question it has posed, including: what role the government and regulator Ofcom should play in extending broadband to hard-to-reach areas; whether there is enough competition in the market; and what should a Universal Service Obligation (USO) for broadband look like. A deadline for submissions has been set as 30 September 2015.
Commenting on the matter, the chair of the committee was cited as saying: ‘Proper digital connectivity is key both to the well-being of many communities and to Britain’s economic future. Yet many people and businesses are unable to receive the digital access and services they need. This inquiry is designed to find out exactly why that is, and how to fix it.’