Ed Vaizey Says UK Broadband Is On Target To Beat Europe

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined
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Ed Vaizey says the UK is on track to have the best broadband in Europe by 2015

UK Communications Minister Ed Vaizey has said that the government is still on track to meet its target of having the best broadband in Europe by 2015.

Speaking at the Huawei Broadband Forum in London, the Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries said that there was a chance for the UK to establish itself as the centre for broadband development.

He said that the Internet’s contribution to the UK’s GDP could rise to 13 percent by 2015 and praised the work of BT and Virgin Media in rolling out fibre across the country. Vaizey said that average speed had increased from 7.5Mbps to 9mbps which he claims is both faster than France and Germany.

Ed Vaizey is proud

“I don’t want to sound complacent but I don’t think there are any countries that we can learn from,” said Vaizey. “When I came into the job, people pointed at countries like South Korea, but there are always different topographies, if you like. South Korea is much more densely populated and its also a myth that its government paid for superfast broadband.

“I think quite honestly that we can be proud of this country and we can be proud of companies like BT and Virgin Media,” he continued. “I think we can be proud that we are the first government in Europe to have a significant plan to rollout superfast broadband to economically challenging areas. A lot of European countries are looking to us.”

Removing red tape

However Vaizey said that there was still work to be done if things are going to get better. He reiterated plans to reduce the amount of red tape so that infrastructure can be delivered faster at a lower cost and called for communities to work with operators.

“We need to create the right environment to allow innovation and growth to happen,” said Vaizey, “We need to ensure that people have the right skills to take advantage of these speeds.”

Parliament Government London © anshar Shutterstock 2012The minister denied that the super-connected cities funding would crowd out private investment and refuted claims that BDUK had become a “one horse race” – even though BT has so far won all contracts issued under the scheme.

Vaizey said that the rollout of 4G networks in the spring would also assist the government in reaching its targets and offer a genuine alternative to fixed broadband. However he refused to be drawn on how the money raised from the auction of spectrum should be spent. Labour has said it should be used for affordable housing, while Brian Cox and a number of other public figures have called for it to be spent on science and technology.

“That will be heading back to the treasury,” said Vaizey. “I can’t allocate the money. The money is in the treasury’s red book and isn’t allocated for any specific purpose.”

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