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No surprises as govt admits it won't achieve broadband target

Friday, June 28th 2013 by Cable.co.uk
UK government pushes back broadband deadline to 2017
Many rural households face waiting until 2017 for faster broadband.

The government has faced a stinging attack from broadband analysts and campaign groups in the wake of its latest spending review - and it's only got itself to blame.

When the coalition first promised to deliver Europe's best super-fast broadband network by 2015, commentators were a little sceptical. The UK tends not to fare particularly well against its European peers in broadband speed tests - indeed, the latest Akamai figures, covering the fourth quarter of 2012, have us in a lowly 13th place in Europe for fixed broadband performance. 

But ministers regularly insisted that this target was realistic. Unfortunately it looks like they've now been forced to eat their words, as this week's spending review saw the deadline for the scheme pushed back until 2017 - meaning a delay of two years for millions of rural residents stuck with slow or even non-existent broadband.

Unsurprisingly, the government tried to put a positive spin on the development. Clearly aware that the two-year delay was likely to be met with a bitterly negative response, it's opted to shift the goalposts by changing its target. Now, it's promising to provide 95 per cent of the UK with super-fast broadband by 2017, rather than 90 per cent coverage by 2015 as was originally planned.

The announcement was further dressed up with the unveiling of new funding; a further £250 million will be spent on broadband upgrades, taking the total public investment to £1.2 billion.

But when you consider the new figures being touted, the delay becomes even more disappointing. With the deadline pushed back by two years, the government should have been far more ambitious than aiming for 95 per cent coverage - universal super-fast connectivity should have been the new target.

Bear in mind that under goals outlined by the EU, every European citizen must be able to access broadband speeds of at least 30Mbps by 2020. That will leave just three years to bring the technology within reach of the final five per cent of rural communities - and given that these areas will be the most isolated, hard-to-reach parts of the UK, this will present a significant challenge.

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