The UK will today outline plans to deliver “superfast” broadband across the country by 2015. Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt is poised to announce the allocation of £830 million – derived from a shortfall in the BBC Licence Fee originally intended for digital switchover – to deliver what Hunt is describing as Europe’s best broadband network.
Britain is currently languishing 13th in the league table of European broadband nations. A plan by the previous government to offer a 2 Mbps Universal Service Commitment by 2012 funded by a tax on fixed line telephony has been dropped. Hunt has indicated that50 Mbps might now be the target speed.
“It’s silly to hang your hat on a speed like two meg when the game is changing the whole time,” he told BBC Radio.
The fastest available broadband speed is currently offered by Virgin Media. Its 50 Mbps service has been in place for a year and the cableco is currently in the process of rolling out its new 100 Mbps DOCSIS-powered service.
Virgin however only reaches around half of the UK; around 608,000 out of a broadband base of 3,969,000 take the 20 Mbps service and 100,000 on 50 Mbps.
BT is beginning to ramp up its own broadband offer, launching its “Race to Infinity”, a nationwide competition to decide which areas should be the first to receive its super-fast fibre broadband to which it is committing £2.5 billion as part of a plan to extend the service to around two-thirds of the UK by 2015.