The UK government claims to support getting the majority of the UK onto “superfast broadband” within the next few years, but with the EU rural broadband fund being cut as part of Cameron’s EU budget savings, just where does that leave internet connectivity on our shores?
The French government has pledged £17 billion to kickstart superfast connection in their country, but where is this funding for rural areas of the UK? The most recent international comparisons from OFCOM, the UK is ranked seventh lowest in terms of superfast broadband connections (that’s people with a connection of better than 20Mbps) per 100 people.
If you are lucky enough to live near an exchange, then it is possible to reach superfast speeds through traditional copper wires with ADSL2+, but for truly superfast speeds the only real option for home users at the moment is through Virgin Media’s fibre-optic broadband. BT has started to roll out their Infinity fibre option as well, but they are moving at a depressingly slow rate.
As more and more content is consumed through the web, superfast connections will become more important than ever. Within a decade you can forget about the whole issue of the “digital switch over” for television or radio because most of us will be streaming that through the web anyway. Radio may not need much band width, but to get HD streaming TV with different channels being watched in different rooms in the house then you’ll need 50mbps+ broadband, whilst those in rural areas will be left out in the cold.
Virgin now have a fair proportion of the population covered with fibre on offer in most city streets, but laying fibre is expensive and when there’s only a small community to be reached that makes laying it uneconomical for a commercial entity, that is when government and local councils are supposed to step in. If you do not have broadband in the UK today then you are already at a societal disadvantage with some council and government services now only available online, and with many entertainment services like Netflix or Spotify leaving you behind.
In a time when the politicians bleat on about future job prospects, they are neglecting the one sector of the economy which is consistently growing and creating new jobs – online, where we are seeing major underinvestment of public finances. We need fibre going to most homes in the country within the next decade, so homes can have 50 or 100mbps connections when the time comes, we need to replace the copper.