Osborne broadband pledge a drop in the ocean

Chancellor George Gideon Osborne has announced £100 million to go on broadband improvements as part of a range of infrastructure projects.

Gideon has earmarked £5 billion in spending to improve the UK’s infrastructure in a bid to get the country back into shape after more financial misery. £100 million go to four British capital cities -London, Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff – to match broadband to the level of other countries across the world. Another six will also be announced at a later date.

Operators, Gideon says, will be able to bid for the cash to fill up urban areas where the connectivity falls short.

Of course, with the 4G rollout still ambling along in no real hurry, we reckon a kick up the arse for communications minister Ed Vaizey to speed up proceedings might be an equally good idea, and less expensive too.

Osborne hopes the cash will boost broadband to speeds as high as 100 megabits per second.  According to the BBC the current average broadband speed in the UK is just 6.8Mbps.

If Vaizey has been hesitant to push for faster speeds, Osborne is attempting to placate the denizens of another crippled European country with quicker means to torrenting films they can’t afford to buy.

Andrew Ferguson, of Thinkbroadband, reckons that the promises won’t amount to much. The pledge, Ferguson suggests, is a drop in the ocean compared to what’s needed.

“The announcement is far from positive,” he told TechEye, “over £3 billion by Openreach, virgin Media and others is already being invested in the cities.”
Ferguson believes the pot will noly help to “infill” areas of a city that aren’t getting great service under the current system. “No way will it provide full fibre over a few hundred thousand premises. 4G will happen and the cities will benefit first mainly. It will give better speeds but smartphones and video services look set to eat up data allowances very fast.”
“Market towns and villages are set to benefit from the Broadband Delivery UK funding, but as we have seen for some parts of the UK the grand aims may be less exciting,” according to Ferguson. “For example, just a subsidy voucher for a two way satellite service.”

According to mobile expert Ernest Doku at uSwitch, it’s vital that more goes in the kitty to bolster broadband speeds if the UK is to keep up with other nations. More could be done, he says, to ensure that rural areas can get even the most basic speeds.

“It’s encouraging to see that the government is pledging to improve broadband services across the UK,” Doku told TechEye. “Britain’s infrastructure is in need of rejuvenation, so to see that the delivery of a super-fast network to the majority of the UK population is a key element in the Chancellor’s plans is heartening.

Doku highlighted where the UK sits compared to the rest of the world: “The UK currently sits behind Japan, most of Europe and the US in terms of average speeds, which is really not good enough.

“Fast, reliable broadband is now a necessity for companies all across the UK, not just within the biggest cities.”

For a party that claims to promote small business and enterprise, the Coalition should reconsider where the land lies at the moment, says Doku: “There are still ‘broadband blackspots’ across the country, which is crippling some small businesses who are lucky to see even the most sluggish speeds.”

“Although there is £100million earmarked for improving the broadband network in London and other major UK cities,” Doku told us, “bringing an appreciable average speed to those in rural areas who have been forever languishing in the slow lane must be of equal importance.”