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MPs launch inquiry into UK superfast broadband rollout

Tuesday, July 28th 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

MPs are launching an inquiry into the rollout of superfast broadband in the UK.

The House of Commons’ Culture, Media and Sport Committee will look at the coverage, delivery and performance of the technology.

The government wants superfast broadband – defined as speeds of 24Mbps or faster – to be available to 95% of UK households by the end of 2017.

Delivery of the service is the responsibility of the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme, which is co-ordinating 44 regional projects run by local authorities and devolved governments.

It is this national rollout, combined with commercial investments by the likes of BT and Virgin Media, that will get the government to its target.

The focus for MPs now shifts to what is known as the ‘final 5%’ – the hardest-to-reach rural areas and pockets of poor connectivity in inner city areas.

The final 5% adds up to about 1.5m premises spread across 70% of the UK’s landmass. Of these, a fifth are in urban areas.

The government is already looking at alternative ways of delivering superfast broadband speeds to the final 5%, including a number of pilot projects and the launch of a £10m innovation fund.

'How to fix it'

Cable.co.uk previously reported that Cybermoor, a community broadband project in Northumberland, had received funding to build a fibre network in rural areas.

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s new inquiry, called ‘Establishing world-class connectivity throughout the UK’, will look at what roles government, industry, and telecoms regulator Ofcom should play in the rollout of superfast broadband.

It will also look at whether broadband companies are investing sufficiently and what methods other countries are using to connect hard-to-reach areas.

Committee chairman Jesse Norman (Con - Hereford & South Herefordshire) said: “Proper digital connectivity is key both to the well-being of many communities and to Britain's economic future.

“Yet many people and businesses are unable to receive the digital access and services they need. This inquiry is designed to find out exactly why that is, and how to fix it.”

The inquiry will also look at the government’s involvement in the ongoing improvements being made to the UK’s mobile networks.

Vodafone, O2, Three and EE are legally committed to investing a total of £5bn in the country’s mobile infrastructure by 2017 following an agreement with the government last year.

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