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Government £5bn gigabit broadband plan branded ‘unachievable’

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Written by: Emma Lunn
22/12/2020
The Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee says government plans are unrealistic.

The government has set out the next steps in its £5bn strategy to deliver next generation, gigabit-capable broadband to the entire country.

But a report by a committee of MPs, also published today, says nationwide gigabit-capable broadband by 2025 is ‘an unrealistic aim’.

The UK Gigabit Programme plans to connect the first one million homes and businesses with gigabit speed broadband and maximise coverage in the hardest to reach 20% of the UK by 2025.

Under the plan, homes and businesses that don’t yet have access to superfast broadband will be prioritised. The government says their speeds will rocket from less than 30Mb per second to more than 1,000Mb per second, or 1Gb per second.

The strategy details a broad range of interventions to deliver gigabit broadband. These include contracts for £5bn in public funding, broadband vouchers and other innovative solutions.

Matt Warman, minister for digital infrastructure, said: “Today we’ve set out our bold programme of national infrastructure projects to future-proof the UK’s internet networks so we can build back better from coronavirus and create new jobs and economic opportunities.

“We will begin these procurements rapidly so broadband providers big and small can move quickly to get the job done and level up communities with this much faster, next generation broadband.”

But a report by the DCMS committee said there was ‘no genuine belief’ from within the sector that the government’s current goals were possible within its current timeframe.

Julian Knight, DCMS committee chairman, said: “The government’s decision to abandon its 2025 gigabit-capable broadband target within weeks of ministers reassuring us of their commitment to it was a belated recognition that it was unrealistic and unachievable, underlining concerns we’d heard from industry.”

Richard Neudegg, head of regulation at Uswitch.com, said: “Today’s report confirms what is already known, that the government’s plans for future-proofed gigabit-capable broadband rollout remain challenging, even with the watered-down target of reaching 85% of premises by 2025.

“We are pleased that the parliamentary report has highlighted an important part of the debate, which is take-up by the public. There is no consumer benefit to having cables running past your house if you’re not connected to them.

“Helping consumers upgrade to ultrafast services at competitive prices will be a critical part of making everyone’s digital experience better.

“Government, regulators and industry should give equal weight to promoting demand for new technology as they do to rolling it out in the first place.”

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