UK won’t automatically rollout superfast broadband to ‘final 5%’ of the country

The UK government will not be automatically rolling out superfast broadband to ‘the final 5%’ of the country- mainly those living in remote areas of the UK.

Last month a consultation on plans for a new Universal Service Obligation (USO) for broadband users concluded – the plan involves ensuring that everyone in the country has access to minimum speeds of 10Mbps by 2020.

Rolling out superfast broadband to the ‘final 5%’ of the UK, mainly located in remote areas, would be too expensive, say ministers.

In a consultation document on the USO, the government said:

“Given the high costs of providing broadband access to premises in remote areas it is right that this is done on request, rather than rolling it out and waiting to see if people in those areas want to be connected.

“We know from the various interventions that the government has made to date that it is unlikely that everyone will want to be connected, even if that option is made available to them, and so we do not believe that an additional broadband rollout programme at this time is proportionate or would represent value for money.”

Superfast broadband is on target to reach 95 per cent of the UK by the end of 2017.

The final 5 percent is mainly comprised of premises in remote rural areas, but it appears that the government does not see ‘value for money’ in a programme which would connect the remaining million homes and businesses.

Graham Long, chairman of Broadband for Rural Devon and Somerset, was quoted by The Mail as saying that ministers have created a ‘rural digital apartheid’. He said: ‘Businesses are moving out of rural areas here in Devon and Somerset because they cannot keep their website – their shop window – up to date.

Adding: “It will be even worse if they only have 10Mbps in 2020, because the need for better bandwidth will have grown by then now that we have cloud computing and other shared applications.”

However, the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) was quoted by the BBC as saying that it is “absolute nonsense to suggest we’re leaving rural areas behind in our rollout of broadband.”

“Our current plans will reach at least 95% of the UK, but we want everyone to have fast broadband so we are introducing a Universal Service Obligation to help make sure no-one is left behind,” a spokesman for DCMS told the BBC.