The government says it is firmly on track to reach 95 percent of the population by 2017 thanks to BDUK
More than one million properties can now receive superfast broadband as the direct result of government intervention, according to Culture Secretary Sajid Javid, who says the UK is “firmly on track” to achieving its target of 95 percent coverage by 2017.
So far, the government has pledged £1.7 billion towards the rollout of superfast broadband in areas which would not otherwise be covered by commercial fibre deployments. A number of projects are currently underway or in the planning stages.
Advocates for better rural broadband say that faster speeds will bring a range of social and economic benefits to local communities and close the digital divide between cities and the countryside.
Government broadband milestone
“More than a million homes and businesses have now benefitted as a result of Government’s investment in superfast broadband,” says Javid. “It is totally transforming the way we live and work. For Businesses, superfast speeds are boosting profits through increased sales, reduced overheads and accessing markets abroad for the first time.”
Official figures show that government-funded programmes have connected 190,393 properties in Wales, 57,199 in Scotland and 3,231 in Northern Ireland. In England, 873,278 homes and businesses have been connected, with only the Isle of Wight yet to benefit from public money.
The majority of the regions have been connected through projects funded by the £780 million Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) initiative, which requires local authorities to match any funding they receive from central government.
BT has won all of the money available under BDUK, investing hundreds of millions of pounds into local projects. However some have questioned if BDUK effectively amounts to state aid and whether the taxpayer is receiving value for money. The company has constantly rejected such claims and maintains it is doing a pretty good job.
The final five percent
“Getting fibre to rural areas is hard, and often complex, work but we are making great progress,” says BT CEO Gavin Patterson. “Our engineers are busy, from Hampshire to the Highlands, connecting homes and businesses whatever the challenge. We are laying undersea cables to the Outer Hebrides, reaching remote villages in Wales and transforming rural areas across England.
“BT has brought technical expertise to the table as well as hundreds of millions of pounds. Some of the early projects are close to completion and further funds will be released if we come in under budget or take-up exceeds expectations.”
Other government schemes include the diluted £150 million super-connected cities fund, which invites SMBs in a number of cities to apply for grants of up to £3,000 to cover the cost of improving their broadband and allows for city councils to deploy public Wi-Fi networks. There’s also the £150 million Mobile Infrastructure Project, which aims to improve mobile coverage in rural areas.
The DCMS says the focus is now on ensuring the five percent of the population that aren’t covered by existing projects are able to receive superfast broadband. A £10 million trial of alternative technologies is currently underway in eight locations across the UK, tryong to establish if they can help fill the gaps.
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