Over a quarter of the UK’s population look likely to be excluded from next-generation broadband services, it has been revealed.
The limitations of the government’s Broadband for All plan were uncovered in an interview with Lord Carter, who is heading the scheme. Responding to questions from the Telegraph, the communications minister forecast that there will certainly “be 25-30 per cent of the country where there will be no economic case for building a next generation fixed network”.
Locations where the investment is unviable are principally rural areas. This has raised the fears that country dwellers would be unable to benefit from next-gen media services such as on-demand television.
Since his interview was published, a number of broadband experts have expressed surprise at the proportion of the country which could be excluded. In turn, questions are now being asked regarding how far the Broadband for All plan is providing Britain with a broadband infrastructure to help it compete economically. More pertinently, some sceptics questioning to what extent it can be seen as a solution to our broadband problems if so many people are at risk of being left out of next-gen services.
Their arguments are lent weight by the fact that currently some 42 per cent of the country cannot get a fast broadband connection. This would mean that as few as 12 per cent of those in rural locations would benefit from a next generation fixed network through the scheme, despite the fact that it is estimated to cost the government some £3.5 billion.
Lord Carter is also likely to face further criticism for his continued backing for satellite broadband technology to fill in the gaps in coverage, along with mobile broadband and wireless broadband networks. Top 10 Broadband has long held doubts over satellite broadband’s viability as a solution to broadband coverage problems, chiefly because it remains relatively unproven compared with other delivery methods.
The Broadband for All scheme has been the source of controversy since it was first mooted in 2007. This has principally focused on Lord Carter’s aim of ensuring that all homes have a 2Mb connection – well below the kind of super-fast broadband connections now on offer.