Plans to bring superfast broadband to the "final 5%" of premises not covered by the government's broadband delivery UK (BDUK) scheme are close to fruition and could be in place by the end of the year.
That is the verdict to of BDUK boss Chris Townsend, who spoke to the Transform Digital conference hosted by the Independent Networks Co-operative Association (INCA) in Bristol, claims that offering coverage to the hardest-to-reach areas in the UK has become "tougher than ever".
But he was quick to offer reassurances that the BDUK programme was still on track to meet its target of achieving 95% coverage by the end of 2017.
“Superfast broadband is now available to 84% of homes and businesses in the UK, which is terrific,” he said.
“Nationally, over 22% of homes and businesses have signed up to superfast broadband. A lot of that has happened recently and superfast broadband coverage take-up per household in the UK is the highest in the top five European economies, which is very encouraging.
“So we know there is a demand for it and we are absolutely committed to not only getting to 95% coverage but getting beyond 95%.”
However, Mr Townsend added that austerity had made funding new projects even tougher, making the extension of coverage to the remaining 5% of the country more difficult, much to the frustration of end users.
BDUK has now submitted a funding plan to the treasury that will aim at addressing the issue as part of the government's Spending Review, adding that it expects a decision to be made by the end of the year.
The plan, which has required the contribution of BDUK, Ofcom, treasury teams and other advisers, aims to take into account the commitments made by the Conservative government's manifesto.
He added: “We are almost dividing the last 5% up into five 1% pieces and addressing each of those because they have their own individual challenges.
“For example, 1% is in cities, in the suburbs, and BDUK is not allowed to address that through the intervention programme that we currently have."