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Public investment is needed to get the nation connected - Miller

Monday, December 22nd 2014 by Ellen Branagh

Getting the whole nation connected is possible with “modest public investment”, the head of a commons select committee has said.

Andrew Miller, chair of the science and technology committee, said it was possible to give 100% access to good services without huge costs.

Mr Miller (Lab - Ellesmere Port and Neston) told Cable.co.uk “We genuinely can from a technical point of view, not massive cost in the terms of the overall government budgets, move to 100% access to communications services, whether it be broadband or mobile coverage, without massive costs.

“It’s not just mobile, you need to look at delivery mechanisms in their entirety.”

Mr Miller said the range of technology available for both broadband and mobile meant it would be possible to connect the whole nation.

“Ask the physicists, not me, but we will get more out of copper, we will get more fibre closer to the home, we will get a bigger bandwidth available through mobile technologies, and there is still some mileage in old bits of technology that haven’t quite involved in the way they were supposed to around point-to-point microwave systems and stuff.”

His comments come as the past few months have seen various technologies unveiled that aim to maximise coverage and capacity for both broadband and mobile networks.

BT is currently trialling G.fast technology, which uses fibre lines to central distribution points, with the remainder of the distance served by conventional copper wires.

Other examples include work on small cells, that make the most of current mobile spectrum to help with issues of congestion in highly-populated areas.

The government is aiming to achieve universal broadband coverage in the UK by 2017, with 95% at “superfast” speeds of 24Mbps through its Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) project.

Mr Miller said: “There’s lots of technologies out there.

“We are moving rapidly to a position where it’s possible, with modest public investment, for us to say there will be a national connectivity.

“And that should be a government objective. They should, in my view, incentivise the bits of the market where there are gaps to fulfil that universal service principle.

“However it gets to your house you’re entitled to a decent service.”

According to Ofcom’s Communications Market Report, published in August, the number of adults with household internet access grew to 82% in the first quarter of 2014.

Fixed broadband increased by 1% to 73%, while mobile broadband via dongle or built-in cellular connection rose 3% to 8% of UK households.

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