Superfast Rural Broadband!
The Department of Culture, Media and Science (DCMS) has stated that as of this month the Government’s backed roll out of superfast broadband to rural communities is to increase in pace. The first people to benefit should be farms and dairies with the service being provided to approximately 10,000 properties per week, increasing in the spring of 2014 to 25,000 properties per week and by that summer to 40,000 per week. Ed Vaizey, the Communications Minister stated that “The coming months will see a rapid acceleration in the number of rural businesses and homes able to access superfast broadband”.
The DCMS has issued a statement stating that “nearly all” of the projects are at delivery stage with some having already been completed. It would be interesting to know which ones are outstanding.
Ultimately by 2016 the aim is to have 90% of next generation of broadband coverage – although the hope is that will be achieved by the end of 2015. However, there does seem to be some anomaly in the information that is coming out. In a report the Prime Minister, David Cameron, told a liaison committee that the figures were 95% by 2017 and then in another statement said that it would be 99% by 2018! The question is will it take until 2015 to get 90% coverage with another 5% following by 2017 and the remaining 4% by 2018?
Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) aims for 95% of properties in the Isles of Scilly and Cornwall to be connected next year and it is expected that Devon and Somerset should be connected by 2016.
The DCMS have even said that rural broadband speeds are rising quicker than urban ones. It has calculated that the speeds in rural areas have risen by 6.9% since May 2012 and 14.1% since May 2011. The question is what was the starting point for these calculations? However, during the summer Ofcom reported the following findings that in May 2013 the download speed for residential properties in the UK was 14.7Mbps with some areas actually achieving 26.4Mbps as opposed to 9.9Mbps for rural areas.
There has been criticism from a select committee that the Government has grossly mismanaged the BDUK scheme (which is publicly funded) and which the Prime Minister has said is “slightly unfair”. There is also condemnation of the Government for permitting BT to become a “quasi-monopoly” by winning every BDUK contract. The National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee have also questioned the Government’s handling of this.
BT has been accused of prohibiting the publication of coverage information by local authorities. So I am sure that people can draw their own conclusions from this.
One of the critics Janice Banks, Chief Executive, of Action with Communities in Rural England (Acre), has said that some councils have been able to publish maps showing the proposed coverage but the data is sketchy and people have been unable to properly ascertain if they will benefit. Therefore, people in those communities are now playing a game of “wait and see” as they are unable to make a decision on whether to look at alternative forms of broadband connection.
Ms Banks also said “This Government want to be sure rural areas get a fair deal from all Government policy. We fear that, once again rural communities are getting a raw deal”.
Finally the Prime Minister has defended this by saying “If you stand back and look at it, three years into Government, when we came to power, there was virtually nothing going on with the rural broadband” He also insisted that there is a “realistic programme” to ensure 95% coverage with a view to having 99% coverage by 2018.
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