The Government is to spend £830 million in a drive to give the UK the best broadband network in Europe by 2015, it was announced today.
An action plan entitled Britain’s Superfast Broadband Future, published by Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, sets out the ambition to create a “digital hub” in every community in the country by the end of this Parliament.
Linked to the nearest exchange by high-speed connections, the hubs would allow communities to extend the internet network to every home.
Mr Hunt said the plan aimed to stimulate private sector investment and cut barriers to business investment in the reliable and secure superfast network which ministers regard as vital to the UK’s economic growth.
Ministers will invest £50 million in a second wave of pilot projects to test how digital hubs can be extended to all communities, including those in remote rural areas.
And there will be moves to cut the costs of access to communications infrastructure and new awards of 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum to allow the development of next-generation mobile services.
Already, more than 70% of UK households have broadband and nearly 50% have access to a superfast 50 Mbps service.
Mr Hunt said: “A superfast network will be the foundation for a new economic dynamism, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and adding billions to our GDP.
“But it is not just about the economy, around the world there are countless examples of superfast broadband helping to build a fairer and more prosperous society, and to transform the relationship between government and citizens.
“And shifting government services online will save billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money.
“We want the UK to have the best broadband system in Europe by 2015. Our strategy, backed by a £830 million Government investment, will help deliver that by stimulating private investment and competition.”
Rural Affairs Secretary Caroline Spelman said that rolling out superfast broadband to the countryside was “probably the single most important thing we can do to ensure the sustainability of our rural communities in the 21st Century”.
She added: “Reliable internet access is vital for business and education, and will help to promote social inclusion and improve life in rural areas right across the country. The new broadband strategy is a vital part of our commitment to improving the lives of people living in rural communities.”
The announcement comes shortly after BT announced it was ready to contribute further funding if it won public money in any of the Government’s tenders for work to bring fibre-optic cables to remote areas.
Mr Hunt said the development could see superfast broadband brought to 90% of the population.