A ‘digital hub’ in every community to boost economic growth.

An ambition to deliver a ‘digital hub’ in every community in the country is at the heart of  the Government’s £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 Secretary of State for Olympics, Culture, Media and Sport Jeremy Hunt, 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 reliable and secure superfast broadband network is vital to the country’s economic growth, the development of high tech and creative industries, and the reform of public services.  

The proposals include:

  • A ‘digital hub’ in every community by the end of this Parliament.

  • Investing £50 million in a second wave of projects to test how we deliver this (on top of the four pilots we are currently running on how we deliver superfast broadband to remote and rural areas).

  • Cutting the costs of and access to infrastructure - increasing shared access, work with house builders to make new home broadband ready, and cutting the costs of laying cable by clarifying the rules on streetworks.

  • Awarding spectrum for mobile services.

Mr Hunt said:

“A superfast network will be the foundation for a new economic dynamism, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and adding billions to our GDP.  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.

“We want the UK to have the best broadband system in Europe by 2015.  Our strategy, backed by a £830 million Government investment, will help deliver that by stimulating private investment and competition.”

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Caroline Spelman said:

“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.

“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.”

The publication of the strategy comes shortly after BT confirmed it is ready to contribute further funding should it win public money in any of the Government’s tenders aimed at bringing fibre to hard to reach areas.

Commenting on this, Mr Hunt said:

“BT’s fantastic range of measures could, on top of the Government’s £830 million investment, bring superfast broadband to around 90 per cent of the population.  BT has said it will contribute further funding to supplement any of the public money the company may win when we hold tenders for rolling out rural broadband. It is a great example of public funding and initiative stimulating private sector investment.”

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.

Market solutions will continue to drive forward the UK broadband network, but for those communities that cannot access a good level of connectivity, public investment will be used to support local authority broadband development plans.

The strategy sets out in detail how Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) will help connect the areas that the market alone cannot reach, including:

  • a central digital point in every community - preferably community broadband hubs - with a high speed connection to the nearest exchange.  Communities would then take responsibility for extending the network to individual homes;

  • taking a mixed-technology approach with fixed, wireless and satellite all having a role.  It is recognised that one technology is not suitable for all circumstances, although high capacity fibre optic is likely to be a key feature of the UK’s network;

  • ensuring access to existing infrastructure, including BT’s network of ducts and poles;

  • new guidance to builders and contractors on how to ensure new buildings are broadband-ready;

  • awarding 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum to allow the development of next generation mobile services; and

  • working with local authorities to reduce the cost of broadband rollout by clarifying existing guidance on streetworks and micro-trenching.

Notes to Editors

  1. ‘Britain’s Superfast Broadband Future’ is available on the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills website.
  2. Two further documents published today are also available on the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills website:
a) a document produced by BDUK setting out the lessons learned from the BDUK Theoretical Exercise conducted over the summer.  This is a key piece of analysis which has contributed to the development of BDUK's approach; and  
b) analysis of the responses to the July discussion document on sharing of other utilities' infrastructure.   3. More information about the work of BDUK is also available on the [Department for Business, Innovation & Skills website](http://interactive.bis.gov.uk/comment/bduk/).     4. The first four pilots areas in Highlands and Islands, Cumbria, Herefordshire and North Yorkshire [were announced in October 2010 ](http://www.culture.gov.uk/news/news_stories/7509.aspx)with each area allocated £5-10 million.  It is hoped that suppliers will start rolling out upgraded infrastructure within a year. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will then use these networks to offer affordable services to homes and businesses.      5. Guidance will be issued in April 2011 for local bodies to submit proposals for projects with a view to selecting projects for funding in May 2011.  We are giving advance notice now so that local bodies will be able to start developing local broadband strategies which will determine what projects are most needed in their areas.     6. BDUK will publish a more detailed delivery model in Spring 2011 which will be aimed at local authorities, suppliers, and other interested parties to provide a greater depth of information on BDUK's approach to ensuring the delivery of broadband services in rural and hard to reach areas.      7. The Government's £830 million investment consists of £530 million by 2015 confirmed in the spending review in October, and £300 million by 2017 as part of the TV licence fee settlement.  It is intended to stimulate additional private investment.

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