The UK will have the fastest broadband in Europe by 2015, culture secretary Jeremy Hunt declared in a speech today.
Speaking at Google's Campus building in east London, Hunt made the claim while addressing criticisms made earlier this year by the House of Lords that he is more concerned with broadband speed than coverage.
"When the Lords Committee criticised me this summer for being preoccupied with speed, I plead guilty. And so should we all," he said.
"Because we simply will not have a competitive broadband network unless we recognise the massive growth in demand for higher and higher speeds. But where their lordships are wrong is to say my focus is on any particular speed: today's superfast is tomorrow's superslow.
"I am today announcing an ambition to be not just the best, but specifically the fastest broadband of any major European country by 2015."
Hunt revealed that the government is looking to invest the £300m television licence fee pot into providing high-speed broadband access – that is, anything greater than 24Mbit/s – for 90 per cent of the UK.
Hunt said that the government initially will be spending to connect more homes to a slower Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC) system as a temporary measure while a faster option is introduced.
"The reason we are backing Fibre To The Cabinet as a potential medium-term solution is simple. The increase in speeds that it allows – 80Mbit/s certainly but in certain cases up to one gigabit – will comfortably create Europe's biggest and most profitable high-speed broadband market," he said.
"And in doing so we will create the conditions whereby, if fibre to the home is still the best way to get the very highest speeds, private sector companies will invest to provide it."
The news doesn't mean a change of policy yet, but does shine light on future government plans to ensure that broadband in the UK is on a par with that installed by its European rivals.
In his speech, Hunt added that since May 2010 speeds across the UK have soared by 50 per cent, making the UK faster than both France and Germany.
"Two thirds of the population are now on packages of more than 10 Mbit/s, higher than anywhere in Europe except Portugal and perhaps surprisingly Bulgaria," he said.
In relation to the rest of the world, however, the UK is flagging far behind Asian contenders such as South Korea, which, according to Akamai's recent State of the Internet Q1 report, has an average speed of 15.7Mbit/s, almost triple that of the UK's 5.6Mbit/s average.
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