Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that the universal 2Mb/s broadband scheme is not financially viable before 2015.
Speaking at the Broadband Delivery Day event in London, Hunt said that the former Labour government set target of 2012 was impractical given a lack of funding set aside by the outgoing government. The statement is a blow to the large numbers of citizens in the UK which still have no access to basic broadband Internet.
The Broadband Delivery Day event was to help stakeholders find solutions to Britain’s broadband coverage holes but early in the proceedings the culture secretary announced the three year delay to basic coverage, a date that the Conservatives had previously described as unambitious while in opposition.
"I have looked at the provision the government had made to achieve this by 2012. And I’m afraid that I am not convinced that there is sufficient funding in place. So, while we will keep working towards that date, we have set ourselves a more realistic target of achieving universal 2Mbps access within the lifetime of this parliament," said the culture secretary Jeremy Hunt.
The previous Labour government assigned £250m from the television licence fee earmarked digital switchover fund but this sum is tiny compared to the £2.5b which BT is already investing in the expansion of high speed broadband and the additional £2b which BT had earlier said was likely necessary. Other analysts had claimed the true costs could be nearer £5b.
While simultaneously announcing a three year delay and crying poor from the nation’s coffers, Hunt told assembled teleco representatives that the next generation of high speed broadband should be made to "virtually every household", although with little public money on offer it’s hard to see why the commercial operators would not continue to target high population density areas which provide the highest pay back on the high levels of investment required.
Hunt reiterated the previous wish that Britain have the fastest broadband in Europe by 2015, despite warnings from BT that it’s economically infeasible to target all areas with super fast broadband.
Meanwhile some communities have been forced to take measures into their own hands, such as rural Kent Iwade. The community used local council funding to contribute £13,000 which enabled BT to pay a further £62,000 in costs which brought broadband fibre to the local exchange enabling speeds of up to 40Mb/s.