Lords broadband proposals nothing but a pipe dream
The House of Lords Communications Committee should be congratulated for pointing out some of the flaws in the government's broadband policy, but the jury's out as to whether the Lords' proposals are any better.
By highlighting the coalition's apparent obsession with boosting broadband speeds in urban areas that already enjoy high-quality connectivity, the select committee has won plenty of plaudits from rural campaign groups like the Country Land and Business Association.
Some of the Lords' proposals, such as the rollout of open-access fibre optic hubs to within reach of every community in the UK, are certainly very worthy and make for interesting reading.
By being able to connect to these hubs, consumers and businesses will be able to improve their broadband services in the short term and upgrade flexibly over time as demand changes.
However, it doesn't seem as if the issue of cost has really been taken into account by the committee.
It's all well and good suggesting everyone in the country should be able to access super-fast broadband, but it seems unlikely at best that this will be achieved with only £750 million of public money on the table. The current economic climate means it's also doubtful the government will be keen to back proposals that could set taxpayers back an additional £250 million or more.
While the Conservatives and Lib Dems have been criticised for being a little too cautious with their strategy - which aims to bring super-fast broadband to 90 per cent of properties by the end of 2015 - it does at least seem achievable.
Disappointingly, the Lords committee also failed to give much credence to the use of alternative technologies to meet the UK's future broadband needs.
Fibre optic technology may be the best way to bring faster speeds to urban areas, but in communities where rollouts aren't viable it makes more sense to focus on services such as satellite broadband and 4G mobile networks.
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