The UK government is to invest an additional £1 billion in speeding up the country’s broadband.
£400 million will go into a new Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund to bring on emerging broadband providers.
But the scheme, to be announced as part of Wednesday’s autumn statement, was described by consumer champions cable.co.uk as serving no useful purpose.
Cable.co.uk Director of Communications and consumer telecoms expert Dan Howdle said: “it is utterly absurd that this funding should provide to a minority speeds for which there is no known or useful purpose”.
Under the plans, at least two million homes and businesses would get access to gold standard “full-fibre” broadband. This translates as fibre-to-the-home as opposed to fibre-to-the-cabinet, the previous government benchmark. Speeds would reach over 1Gbps.
Despite the government claiming the UK to be a leader in broadband infrastructure, a survey from the European Commission earlier this year revealed rural Britain to have a worse service than Slovenia, Lithuania and Cyprus.
But the government admits that the UK is falling behind in it’s so-called gold standard, with such services only available to 2% of the population.
The move could also reduce the role of BT, which has to date benefitted from the government’s broadband incentives to roll out rural broadband.
Andrew Griffith, Sky’s Group Chief Operating Officer, said: “We welcome the Government’s announcement on broadband investment, which chimes with our view that the future is full fibre. Government has played its part through this package of measures, which should help kick start the investment needed to push the UK up the league table. But we won’t achieve the necessary step change in driving full fibre investment across the country unless Ofcom also takes bold and decisive action on the future of BT Openreach .”
The role of Openreach continues to be aa thorn in the side of BT’s rivals. In July Ofcom said Openreach should become a distinct company with its own board but stopped short of a full separation from BT.