UK government should concentrate on 2Mbps broadband

Ensuring every home and small business in the UK has access to 2Mbps broadband is more important than offering superfast internet speeds of 100Mbps and above, says Consumerchoices.

According to Simon Piper, head of business development and partnerships at the comparison Web site, there needs to be a clear policy that focuses on achieving sufficient broadband speed regardless of geographical location, including rural areas.

“Everyone should be receiving a minimum speed of 2Mbps and we are looking to government to make this a priority,” said Piper.

“Focussing on national superfast rollout is great for government sound bites but it detracts from the need of simply getting everywhere connected with 2Mbps. Access to reliable 2Mbps connections all the time would be a great help to keep smaller businesses online and running at a level which will in turn support Britain’s economy.”

Piper added that while superfast broadband is a great concept and essential to keeping Britain competitive in the global digital economy, “we need to make sure we don’t lose sight of getting broadband access for all first”.

The government first set out proposals to offer 2Mbps broadband to every UK resident by 2012 in its Digital Britain report, which formed the basis of the Digital Economy Act.

However, it is thought that around 2.5 million homes can’t get 2Mbps or above internet access, particularly those located in rural areas of the country.

Private companies including BT and Virgin Media are currently rolling out fibre networks across the UK.

However, they claim it is not economical to install the networks in some, which will leave many Brits without 2Mbps internet access. The government will need to fund the roll-out in these areas to achieve its targets.

How the government intends to generate the money to pay for this has not yet been set-out. Under the previous Labour government, a “broadband tax” which would have seen Brits with a home phone line charged a £6 per year levy was proposed. 

However, the Conservative Party was heavily against the tax, instead believing the TV Licence Fee and private investors should cover the cost of rolling out fibre-optic broadband.

As a result, the broadband tax was one of three proposed charges dumped from the Finance Billbefore Parliament was dissolved on 12 April in preparation for the General Election.

It is currently unknown whether the Liberal Democrats, which formed a coalition government with the Conservatives this week, will back the plan.

This week, BT announced it was investing a further £1bn in ensuring its fibre network is rolled out to two thirds of the UK.

Initially it said just 40 per cent of the UK would benefit from its superfast broadband network.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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