The government has promised to deliver superfast broadband of at least 25Mbit/s to 90 per cent of homes and businesses by 2015 as it seeks to turbo-charge the nation's digital infrastructure.
The pledge was made by culture secretary Jeremy Hunt during a speech on Thursday at Race Online 2012, in which he argued that investment in broadband is critical in allowing the UK to compete with other leading internet nations.
"If we press ahead with expansion of superfast capabilities we can put the UK in the global fast lane. If we fail to do so we apply a handbrake to growth precisely when we need to power ahead," he said.
The promise follows earlier plans to ensure a minimum of 2Mbit/s for all by 2015, part-funded by an investment of £530m from the government to see that people in areas not serviced by ISPs are not left behind.
"We have set aside the money and the expertise to make this happen. Now local authorities need to step up to the plate by bringing forward their own plans setting out how they will deliver this level of ambition," Hunt said.
Hunt also revealed that Ofcom is to publish a league table of the broadband performance of each local authority in the UK to let people see how connectivity is progressing in their region.
The government will no doubt hope that most of the country will be covered by providers such as Virgin Media and BT, the latter having invested £2.5bn to bring superfast services to two-thirds of the population by 2015.
Rupert Wood, principal analyst at Analysys Mason, told V3.co.uk that the government's target is possible, but that it will depend on whether private investments are spread widely enough and services are in demand.
"It is not impossible, and it's a good ambition. The EU wants 100 per cent availability of 30Mbit/s by 2020 but it depends on a number of things, including whether the Fujitsu plan goes ahead, and to what extent the footprint overlaps with BT's superfast broadband," he said.
"Overall, the willingness to invest in riskier areas will depend on the speed of take-up of superfast broadband."
The UK currently lags far behind other major nations for broadband. Bradford is the only city to creep into the top 100 cities in the world for average broadband connections, at 99th, with an average of 6.03Mbit/s, according to research from Akamai.
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