Lords Publishes Damning Responses To Government Broadband Plans

The House of Lords has revealed a wide range of expert views on the Government’s broadband strategy

Written responses to the House of Lords inquiry into the government’s superfast broadband strategy have been published, and the report contains a range of written responses, many damning, few positive, from industry experts and players alike.

The 382-page report is substantial, and has collected the thoughts, views and input on the state of superfast broadband in the UK, and seeks to establish whether the government’s strategy (via its BDUK funding) is the right approach.

This comes after the government revealed in May 2011 that it aims to achieve download speeds of 24Mbps for 90 percent of the UK’s 25 million households, but the remaining homes may be left to languish in the broadband slow lane, receiving a minimum of 2Mbps.

Positive views

One of the most positive assessments came from BT, which predictably highlighted its own £2.5bn investment into superfast broadband for two-thirds of the country by 2015.

It reiterated in its written response its belief that with the government’s £530m BDUK’s funding it can push this to 90 percent of the country, providing the BDUK money is “spent effectively.” The telecoms giant also said it believes fibre-networks are the best way to ensure current and future broadband requirements for Britons are met.

BT stressed the geographic reach of broadband in the UK, as 99 percent of UK premises currently have access to some form of broadband. It also said that its fibre deployment is going well with more more than seven million of the UK’s 28 million premises now able to connect to a BT fibre optic connection. A million premises are being connected per quarter, BT said.

BT also backed the government’s strategy of using a combination of central, local and private sector funds, which if properly invested, “makes achievable the Government’s target of delivering the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015.”

Negative views

But others were less optimistic and far less positive about the government’s superfast broadband plans.

Buckinghamshire Business First for example said that while the BDUK funding was a good step forward, “indications are that the assigned £530m will not be enough to ensure that the Government’s nationwide 90 percent target is achieved.”

WISP (Wireless Internet Service Provider) supplier Click4Internet also expressed its frustration over the lack of funding for its sector. “We have been continually frustrated in our efforts to attract any material assistance from local authority or any other funding source,” it wrote.

Meanwhile the Communication Workers Union (CWU) addressed the growing digital divide in the UK, stating that more public investment is needed to ensure the ‘final third’ of the UK’s population will receive superfast broadband on a fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network within the Government’s set targets.

It warned that the UK is lagging behind its foreign competitors in terms of FTTH broadband deployment, and said that the Government’s targets are not ambitious enough to ensure the UK’s economy remains globally competitive.

“Profits by successful bidders resulting from the sale of 4G spectrum licenses later this year at knock-down prices, estimated at £1 billion, should be re-invested back into superfast broadband FTTH deployment,” the CWU said.

The Union also said that the government’s BDUK was not enough. “In comparison with other countries the money committed by the UK Government is meagre,” it said. “UK Broadband deployment ranks sixth in the world behind China, USA, Japan, Germany and France according to Broadband Forum.”

And others were also keen to stress that the Government is simply not investing enough money into superfast broadband.

“Even with match-funding from local authorities, it is likely that the Government’s commitment of £530m will be insufficient to build a future-proofed superfast broadband network, fit for purpose,” added the Country Land & Business Association.

“It is not good enough for Government to assume that such a low bandwidth as 2 Mbps is sufficient in years to come,” wrote the Federation of Small Businesses.

Are you fluent in the languages of the Internet? Take our quiz!