UK Government issues new superfast broadband targets

An additional 1.4 million premises can expect to get superfast fiber-optic broadband under the latest plans announced by the UK Government. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury has increased the available investment by £250 million ($378 million) to ensure that superfast broadband gets to 95% of homes and businesses in the UK by 2017.

An additional 1.4 million premises can expect to get superfast fiber-optic broadband under the latest plans announced by the UK Government. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury has increased the available investment by £250 million ($378 million) to ensure that superfast broadband gets to 95% of homes and businesses in the UK by 2017.

The funding builds on the £1.2 billion program of public investment already underway to transform broadband in the UK, according to the Government.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller welcomed the announcement and said, “Every week, 100,000 more homes and businesses are getting access to superfast broadband, and our broadband is already among the best in Europe when it comes to coverage, usage, and choice. But we want to go even further and that’s why we are now setting a new target to reach 95% of premises by 2017.”

This money will help ensure those homes and businesses in the hardest-to-reach areas get access to superfast broadband access, building economic prosperity and encouraging more social inclusion up and down the country.

The UK’s previously stated objective was to bring superfast broadband to 90% of the population by 2015. However, the government has been criticized among fears that it would not reach this target as a result of a drawn out procurement process and state aid concerns (see “UK broadband program in state aid bottleneck”). Some see the new announcement as admission that the current program won’t be ready on time.

"This is the third time the government has moved the goalposts," said the shadow minister for media and communications Helen Goodman in The Guardian. "They are trying to make it look like a golden fleece, when they've made a pig's ear."

The additional funding isn’t exactly news either. The UK Government had previously said that it hoped to make an additional £300 million available to continue its broadband expansion program in the period 2015 – 2017, a period that falls after the end of the current parliament. The actual sum that’s been made available is £50 million less than expected.

The money will come from the existing TV licence fee funds, and it’s expected that it will be match funded locally to bring the total extra public investment to £500 million.

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