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Cross party committee criticises UK gov gigabit broadband plans

by Mark Tyson on 24 December 2020, 12:11

Tags: UK Government

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HEXUS previously reported upon the government's manifesto pledge to have "gigabit broadband sprouting in every home" by the end of 2025. In July this had already been diluted to "go as far as we possibly can by 2025," but by September industry leaders warned that the manifesto pledge was far too ambitious to be realistic. Then, in late November, the government watered down its broadband plans even further in the chancellor's spending review. More specifically, it appeared to cut the funds allocated to helping realise the planned gigabit rollout from £5bn to £1.2bn.

Earlier this week a cross party select committee of MPs published a report on the topic of the government's targets and funding for digital connectivity and it is rather scathing in its findings. You can read the full and lengthy report here, and if you do visit the link you will find the key points have been helpfully bolded.

In summary, the report starts by saying that it is understandable that the original manifesto pledge has been fudged, as an unrealistic target can be counterproductive. It is welcomed that the government didn't take a very long time to listen to industry experts and concerns about the pledged gigabit rollout target. However, the shifting of the goalposts spoiled groundwork such as plans to build a robust investment case, and so on.

The government's newest plans come under fire from a number of angles. While the newer technological agnostic approach is welcomed, it is warned that 5G isn't a silver bullet. The committee thinks that physical fibre cabling is still essential for the future. One further point is raised about what will happen to the £5bn investment, with only £1.2bn ring-fenced for now.

Bringing other gigabit-capable technologies into scope will help

Lunging from one unrealistic target to another

Last but not least the cross party MPs assert that "it would not be acceptable having abandoned one unrealistic target, for the Government to fail to meet a second, less ambitious, target through lack of effective planning or inadequate investment." The MPs ask for a full considered government response to their findings with clearer detail on how it expects to achieve its goals, with a timetable that includes those outside the core 85 per cent who reside in easier to connect areas.

If digital Britain is really so important to the new economy then the plans need to be better sketched out for industry partners, stakeholders, businesses, and users - with realistic goals on a realistic timetable.

HEXUS received an email from Dan Howdle, consumer telecoms analyst at UK broadband and mobile comparison site Cable.co.uk, who generally echoed the committee's complaints but included an interesting nugget of information from ground-zero. Howdle wrote that Openreach's target of adding 20 million full fibre connected homes by mid 2020s will likely slip to the end of the decade without further resource commitments coming forward. He added that while gigabit might seem like a luxury right now, it will be vital to our lives and economy by the end of the decade.



HEXUS Forums :: 6 Comments

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What am I going to be doing in a decade that I'm not doing now? I'm already running a remote desktop to the office and on video calls when writing from home, fairly often at the same time as the other half. We can be streaming two different programs at once. We only want (and want to pay for) the cheapo 38mb fibre to cabinet despite being in both a fibre to premises and Virgin area.

Do we all need to be streaming 4k? And that's surely a leisure activity rather than an economic necessity?

No problem with planning for the future, I just we've already reached the remote teleworking dream promised all those decades ago. Start with the people who haven't got reliable FTC first rather than gigabit pipedreams.
HEXUS
Last but not least the cross party MPs assert that “it would not be acceptable having abandoned one unrealistic target, for the Government to fail to meet a second, less ambitious, target through lack of effective planning or inadequate investment.”.
But, easing back targets and then still failing to meet them, is what the Tories have been doing since 2010.
jimbouk
the cheapo 38mb fibre to cabinet despite being in both a fibre to premises and Virgin area.

That's all I can get in my area, which is 2.5 miles away from where I would now be getting 300 from Virgin for no additional cost. BT / Openreach are woefully inadequate.

While you may not wish to have a faster connection, I'd jump at the chance to have something a little less backwards, purely because BT / Openreach are incapable of investing in the network properly. Instead they just focus on the city environment, everyone else be damned.
Iota
That's all I can get in my area, which is 2.5 miles away from where I would now be getting 300 from Virgin for no additional cost. BT / Openreach are woefully inadequate.

While you may not wish to have a faster connection, I'd jump at the chance to have something a little less backwards, purely because BT / Openreach are incapable of investing in the network properly. Instead they just focus on the city environment, everyone else be damned.

I'd say it's seems very random who they role it out to, I'm technically rural Co. Durham, the back end of nowhere, in most peoples eye's and we've just had FTTP points put in on the power lines running up our road with speeds up to 900mb/s. I'm mulling over getting a 100mb connection but it means an extra £108 a year and leaving a provider I've been with since I got broadband (back in the days when 0.5mb was nippy) and who have been extremely reliable I've had about maybe four days in total of no internet connection in sixteen years.
jimbouk
What am I going to be doing in a decade that I'm not doing now?
Have more kids?