The government’s rollout of superfast broadband has reached more than 1 million homes and businesses across the UK. The £1.7 billion nationwide rollout is firmly on track to extend superfast broadband to 95% of UK homes and businesses by 2017. The rate at which the fibre technology is being rolled out under the programme is rapidly accelerating, with up to 40,000 premises gaining access every week.
The UK-wide rollout is a key part of one of the government’s long-term economic objectives to secure Britain’s future by providing access to superfast broadband in the private sector areas. The current rural programme aims to deliver returns of £20 for every £1 invested, which many experts believe represents tremendous value for money.
Faster broadband aims to improve profits for UK businesses; furthermore it aims to create an additional 56,000 jobs in the UK by 2024.The work involved in the current roll out is expected to provide a £1.5 billion boost to local economies. By 2024, the government’s current investments in faster broadband aims improve rural economies by £275 million every month, or around £9 million every day. Current UK coverage of superfast broadband is the highest of the top 5 European economies and also lead European counterparts in terms of take up, competitiveness and pricing. However, the Government recognises that there is still more to do.
Ofcom’s report found that the availability of superfast broadband has increased in the UK from around 60 percent at the end of 2011 to 73 percent today; taking the country from third to first for coverage when measured with France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
Current plans aim to ensure superfast speeds for 95% of the UK; however, the Government firmly believes that its transformation of the digital landscape should reach every area of the UK. Focus is now on the “final 5%”, those areas in the most remote places in the UK. £10million has been invested in a series of pilot projects currently under-way in 8 locations across the nation, in order to investigate the best way of giving access to these areas. The findings might be used to inform future-funding bids to ensure everyone benefits from the transformation of the digital landscape.
Culture Secretary, Sajid Javid, has said: “More than a million homes and businesses have now benefitted as a result of the Government’s investment in superfast broadband. It is totally transforming the way we live and work. You can download feature length films faster; chatting online with family and friends around the world using VOIP is more reliable and households can go online simultaneously without the connection slowing down or dropping out. For Businesses, superfast speeds are boosting profits through increased sales, reduced overheads and by accessing markets abroad for the first time.”
Gavin Patterson, Chief Executive Officer at BT, has said: “Our engineers are busy, from Hampshire to the Highlands, connecting homes and businesses, whatever the challenge. We are laying undersea cables to the Outer Hebrides, reaching remote villages in Wales and transforming rural areas across England.”
In comparison to the UK, the US regulators have helped increase investment in broadband and expanded access to high-speed Internet across their nation. The Penn study found that US consumers had more access to high-speed Internet than their European counterparts. 82 percent of American households are enjoying fast service, compared with just 54 percent in Europe.
With the Internet gradually gaining the status of a household utility, alongside water, gas and electricity, more Britons now shop online than in any other European state. Data suggests that using a tablet or desktop computer to buy groceries, clothes and entertainment is becoming a national pursuit.
What else might be done to help bridge the gap between urban and rural areas’ Internet access?