High speed broadband for rural homes and businesses
BT recently gave back £258 million of a £1.2 billion Government subsidy. The original sum was forecast to cover the cost of rolling out 24mbps high speed broadband across the UK, with an expected one in five households signing up for the service.
However, with an actual one in three signing up, the high speed broadband service has proved more popular than originally anticipated. As a result, BT decided to return some of the original subsidy.
UK ministers are now under pressure to use this recent windfall to boost fast rural broadband. MPs and campaigners would like the Government to reinvest the money in order to extend the automatic rollout of fast broadband to rural areas.
Former Tory party chairman Grant Shapps:
“This returned money must be ploughed back into speeding up our nation’s broadband as quickly as possible because it is not only the right thing to do, but it has essentially already been pledged to meet this high speed goal.”
Countryside-based small businesses rely heavily on the quality of their business broadband connection. However, the Government says it will not be rolling out faster broadband to the final 5% of the UK not covered, alleging demand is not there.
This means one million homes will be left to request broadband connectivity for themselves, should they wish to receive it. The additional cost of connectivity would also be left down to the individual requesting it in many cases.
Campaign for faster broadband for all
With this in mind, The Telegraph recently launched a campaign for universal provision of faster broadband. Backed by the Labour party, shadow Communities Secretary, Jon Trickett, is also pushing for the windfall to be used to extend broadband connectivity to the farthest places of the UK.
Also in support of this campaign is the LGA (Local Government Association), which represents councils of the UK. Launching Up to Speed, it’s own campaign, the LGA would like to ensure minimum standards of broadband speeds for all areas.
Concerns that the fixed download speed of 10Mbps will quickly become outdated for households and businesses, the LGA would like the minimum speed to be based on a percentage of the national average, to avoid a large gap opening between urban and rural areas. Hopefully, when the national average of download speeds inevitably rises, the minimum standard will too.
Industry experts have already forecast the average household will require bandwidth of 19 Mbps by 2023, far in excess of the legal minimum of 10Mbps.
The LGA aims to ensure every home and business has access to faster broadband, in a bid to ensure communities and businesses of the UK are not left behind by the digital revolution.
Poor broadband connection implications for businesses
Other concerns about the government’s decision not to roll out automatic broadband to rural areas includes the ability of several thousand local businesses to file online tax returns. With no or poor internet connectivity, this could potentially cause issues for self-employed individuals and small businesses when the new digital tax system comes in to operation (2018-2020).
Michael Steed, president at the Association of Taxation Technicians, said:
“The result of having unreliable internet and being expected to do a digital tax return will be inaccurate tax returns and a lot of frustrated taxpayers. The Government has clearly not thought about this consequence, as it has not yet said how it will deal with people in this situation.”
Broadband Infrastructure investment across the UK
Whilst BT may have returned some of its original subsidy from the Government, it recently announced a multi-billion pound programme to lay fibre-optic broadband lines to around two million homes and businesses. This move came following Ofcom’s concerns regarding the monopoly on the nations telecoms network of BT’s Openreach division. This large-scale investment is a positive move towards upgrading broadband connections.
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