The government has announced today its ambition for a “digital hub” in every community in the country, as part of an £830 million strategy to make sure the UK has the best broadband network in Europe by 2015.
Britain’s Superfast Broadband Future, published today by Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Olympics, Culture, Media and Sport, sets out an action plan to stimulate private investment and competition, and create an environment in which business can flourish by removing key barriers around hardware and cutting costs.
“A superfast network will be the foundation for a new economic dynamism, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and adding billions to our GDP,” said Mr Hunt during a speech earlier today at Reform.
“But it is not just about the economy, around the world there are countless examples of superfast broadband helping to build a fairer and more prosperous society, and to transform the relationship between Government and citizens. And shifting Government services online will save billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money.”
The hubs will act as central digital points in each community, with high speed connections to the nearest exchange and communities working with local providers to extend networks to individual homes.
The plans also include:
Cutting the costs of and access to infrastructure and increasing shared access by working with house builders to make new homes broadband ready, and cutting the costs of laying cable by clarifying the rules on streetworks
Awarding spectrum for mobile services
Investing £50 million in a second wave of test projects, on top of the four rural pilots we are currently running
Strong market position
The UK is already in a relatively strong position, with one of the most competitive broadband markets in the world. More than 70 per cent of households subscribe to broadband and nearly 50 per cent of all homes have access to a superfast 50Mbps service.
The market continues to make great strides in extending and improving the country’s broadband network and existing provision is largely due to market investment, with Virgin Media and BT investing rapidly in new networks. Smaller providers such as Rutland Telecom, Geo and Vtesse and community groups are finding innovative ways of delivering superfast broadband to areas where it is economically challenging to do so.
The strategy also sets out in detail how Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) will help connect the areas that the market alone cannot reach.
Supporting rural communities
“Rolling out superfast broadband is probably the single most important thing we can do to ensure the sustainability of our rural communities in the 21st Century and end the digital divide,” said Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. “Reliable internet access is vital for business and education, and will help to promote social inclusion and improve life in rural areas right across the country. The new broadband strategy is a vital part of our commitment to improving the lives of people living in rural communities.”