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Lords savage government’s universal broadband plans

31 Jul 2012

The government's obsession with headline grabbing internet speeds risks leaving rural areas cut-off from good quality broadband services, according to a report from the House of Lords.

The current broadband plans from Whitehall stipulate 90 per cent of the population should be able to access speeds of 25Mbit/s by 2015 and the entire population have access to 2Mbit/s services by the same deadline.

However, the House of Lords Communications Committee, said this low threshold was not suitable to ensure the entire nation remains equal in the digital world.

Instead, it said the government needs to place more focus on ensuring all areas can access reasonable broadband speeds, rather than simply improving the speeds of those already hooked-up to solid speeds.

The Committee proposed that the government, instead of relying on last-mile fibre rollouts paid for by a mix of funding and private investment, should create digital fibre hubs in communities that the public and firms in the area, could then use to provision their own broadband as required.

"The government is quite right to make broadband a policy priority - barely an aspect of our lives isn't touched in some way by the internet, and developments look set to continue apace in the future," said committee chairman Lord Inglewood.

"A whole host of services will increasingly be delivered via the internet - including critical public services - and without better provision for everyone in the UK this will mean that people are marginalised or excluded altogether."

However, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), defended its policies, claiming it would deliver a sustainable and workable network for the UK for years to come.

"The government considered a number of models for delivering superfast and universal broadband," said a spokesperson.

"We believe that working with the private sector and local authorities is the best and most cost effective approach and we remain on track to deliver our broadband commitments. We will be responding to the report in full in due course."

The report also made a number of other recommendations, most notable of which was the suggestion TV signals should be delivered through the internet in the future, to free up more mobile spectrum.

High-profile rollouts in Wales and North Yorkshire were recently confirmed by the government with Broadband Delivery UK funding and investment from BT key to getting projects off the ground.

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Dan Worth

Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal

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