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HS2 is double the cost of fibre broadband to every home in the UK

Monday, September 15th 2014 by Hannah Langston

The £42.6bn the government is spending on building a high-speed rail link between London and the North could upgrade every UK home to fibre-to-the-premises broadband – twice over.

Community broadband providers Broadband for the Rural North (B4RN) and Gigaclear deliver 1Gbps broadband connections to some of the most remote homes in the UK. Both ISPs told Cable.co.uk they can install connections for less than £800.

If the money allocated to HS2 were transferred to upgrading the UK’s 26.5m homes to fibre broadband, £1607 would be available to each household – over double the maximum amount B4RN and Gigaclear claim is needed to install a gigabit connection.

The HS2 project claims to rebalance the UK economy by building a high-speed railway connecting London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. According to HS2 spokesperson Richard Pain, “there is a strong business case for this new north-south rail line, with at least £2 of benefits for every £1 spent”.

However, London School of Economics professor Gabriel Ahlfeldt questions the economical benefit compared to universal digital inclusion for the UK. He told us, “Both (superfast broadband and HS2) are likely to deliver sizeable economic benefits but the benefits need to be compared to the costs of providing these infrastructures. The cost-benefit case seems to be clearer for superfast broadband”.

The government has assigned £1.6bn to upgrading 95% of the UK to superfast broadband (speeds of 24Mbps and above) using BT’s fibre-to-the cabinet technology. An additional £10m has been made available to projects trialling alternative broadband solutions, such as fibre-to-the-premises, in rural areas.

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