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UK Gov waters down broadband plans in spending review

by Mark Tyson on 26 November 2020, 12:11

Tags: UK Government

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qaeptc

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Yesterday UK government Chancellor Rishi Sunak delivered his Spending Review 2020 speech. The speech set out the government's planned actions to help get the country through the current health emergency. The immediate priority of the government, as stated by Sunak, is "to protect people’s lives and livelihoods". Of course that means that some services will be bolstered and others cut back.

After the speech finer details of what will actually be happening started to become clearer and that includes details of changes to the government's UK Gigabit Broadband Programme. In brief it looks like the government might be using the pandemic as cover to admit that PM Johnson's pledge of "gigabit broadband sprouting in every home" by the end of 2025 wasn't realistic. In fact we already had some indications that reality had started to bite, back in September, when the government reworded its commitment to "go as far as we possibly can by 2025."

So, what is new in the full Spending Review 2020 published announcement PDF, with regard to broadband? Well, the government committed to investing "£1.2 billion to subsidise the rollout of gigabit-capable broadband, as part of the government's £5 billion commitment to support rollout to the hardest to reach areas of the UK". That sounds fair on the surface but it looks like this £1.2 billion isn't a per-year figure until 2025, but is spread rather thinly from now until 2025, according to the official table below.

The footnotes say "2. This is the first 4 years of the £5 billion Gigabit Broadband programme." But we can't say for sure the investment times/amounts in the coming years if further bad economic events occur. Furthermore, the BBC reports that the whole of the UK commitment has been significantly watered down to now be an aim to have a "minimum of 85 per cent coverage," for gigabit broadband in the UK by 2025.

Reducing the target like this means that the hardest areas to roll out gigabit broadband to will naturally be neglected to save funds. Thus Andrew Glover, chair of the Internet Service Providers' Association, said the scaling back of government ambitions was "a blow to rural communities".

As a reminder, Theresa May's target date of 2033 to achieve universal UK coverage of gigabit-capable broadband was called "laughably unambitious," by current PM Johnson in 2019.



HEXUS Forums :: 34 Comments

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I'll be honest and say I'm not sure most home users actually ‘need’ gigabit internet, even more so if it has useless upload speeds, but why is the government even paying for the infrastructure in the first place, especially when they won't see any profit from it….

Openreach (and bt because lets be honest they're still linked) are a commercial company who should be footing the bill, they've done so little to the infrastructure since they've owned it (we really should all be on fibre by now) it's about time they actually paid for something themselves instead of making huge profits off of previous (and current) government investment..
How about making bt use some of the money they've wasted on football streaming etc on infrastructure… instead of putting up bills for it.

Also why haven't the government delayed (or cancelled) that hs2 train thing, if we're heading down the route of businesses working from home, due to companies finding out it works during lockdown, one of the main reasons for the train line has been nullified and would be better spent on (ironically) the internet connections.


(forum posting works, posting on home page didn't for me)
LSG501
I'll be honest and say I'm not sure most home users actually ‘need’ gigabit internet, even more so if it has useless upload speeds, but why is the government even paying for the infrastructure in the first place, especially when they won't see any profit from it….

Openreach (and bt because lets be honest they're still linked) are a commercial company who should be footing the bill, they've done so little to the infrastructure since they've owned it (we really should all be on fibre by now) it's about time they actually paid for something themselves instead of making huge profits off of previous (and current) government investment..
Well ‘making profit off it’ is pretty much the raison d'etre for a commercial company. Why should they be involved in something that doesn't make them money? If you want a company like that then you found a not-for-profit or govt owned body.

Also why haven't the government delayed (or cancelled) that hs2 train thing, if we're heading down the route of businesses working from home, due to companies finding out it works during lockdown, one of the main reasons for the train line has been nullified and would be better spent on (ironically) the internet connections.

The govnt doesn't want us to work from home - all those commute costs, office leasing and supporting eateries etc. are putting money in the hands of business and is very much the Tory way (which in turn has been supported by the majority of the electorate so they can argue they've got a mandate to continue).
Maybe our country needs to be more realistic and try and get the existing infrastructure upto date. Something like targetting 100/40 would be much more doable and cheaper,especially since we also need to look at network capacity and reliability.So much of the country is still using decades old copper and aluminium cabling,and end of street boxes which look like a spaghetti maze!

Another thing is also investment in improved wireless infrastructure which might be more cost effective in rural areas than miles and miles of cabling - in certain countries in Africa,its been more cost effective to do this than more traditional methods.
FFS just cancel HS2 and divert the funds to this. It'll surely be more beneficial to people here.