Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has promised that the UK will have the fastest broadband network of anywhere in Europe by 2015.
The lofty commitment was announced in east London today, where Hunt told broadband industry experts that to be the best, you “need to be the fastest”, the Guardian reports. He said the announcement is not just about being the best overall but to be the best in fast broadband of any “major” European country, although we “may already be there”.
Labour responded by claiming the statement was one-sided, focusing on speed rather than access.
The announcement was met with mixed reactions from some of the UK’s broadband experts. Julia Stent, at uSwitch.com, welcomed Hunt’s enthusiasm but warned that there is still a good way to go before the UK is where it needs to be. Three in ten postcodes, according to uSwitch data, have broadband download speeds under 3 Mbps. One in five UK postcodes still suffer from broadband speeds of under 2 Mbps.
“The danger is that the culture secretary’s tunnel-vision emphasis on average speed addresses levels of demand from consumers and businesses for faster connections,” Stent said, “but doesn’t take rural areas into account”. Stent warns that many areas still do not have good coverage, and despite being in the age of fibre optics, they are “pitifully slow”.
Indeed, it was recently announced that the town of Chipping Norton in West Oxfordshire was to get fast broadband access through Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) technology, courtesy of Cotsolds Broadband – the likes of which can provide the web to communities outside of urban centres.
Earlier this year, the government was slammed for scrapping the Communications Green Paper, which specifically wanted to address maximising value of broadband spectrum. At the time, Shadow Minister Helen Goodman told TechEye that scrapping the consultation shone a light on the Coalition’s lack of direction in communications policy.
The Lords communications committee report, meanwhile, recently suggested that the Coalition’s plans are misguided. “The delivery of certain speeds should not be the guiding principle; what is important is the long term assurance that as new internet applications emerge, everyone will be able to benefit, from inhabitants of inner cities to the remotest areas of the UK,” it said.