In a speech made earlier this week, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt reaffirmed his vow that the UK would top Europe in terms of broadband speeds by the year 2015.
Hunt said: “In my very first speech as a Minister I said that I wanted us to have the ‘best’ superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015. In defining ‘best’ you include factors like price and coverage as well as speed. But over the past two years it has become clear, as Usain Bolt wouldn’t hesitate to say, to be the best you need to be the fastest.”
“So I am today announcing an ambition to be not just the best, but specifically the fastest broadband of any major European country by 2015. Indeed we may already be there.”
May we indeed? Yes, it’s true, the super-fast roll out is progressing nicely. According to Ofcom, we now have an average broadband speed of 9Mbps in the country, over double that of three years ago.
But we’re “already there”? No we aren’t – we’re considerably behind all the Scandinavian countries, and a number of others such as the Netherlands and Romania to mention just a couple, in terms of overall broadband average.
Hunt restated his target to see 90 per cent of the UK with access to super-fast (above 24Mbps advertised) speeds by 2015, and pointed out that we were the fastest “large” European country (having just overtaken France and Germany).
The Culture Secretary also had a pop at the Lords for blasting him over his focus on speed, as opposed to getting full coverage out across the entire UK.
Hunt said: “…when the Lords Committee criticised me this summer for being preoccupied with speed, I plead guilty. And so should we all. Because we simply will not have a competitive broadband network unless we recognise the massive growth in demand for higher and higher speeds.”
“But where their Lordships are wrong is to say my focus is on any particular speed: Today’s super-fast is tomorrow’s super-slow. Just as the last government was wrong to hang its hat on 2 Mbps speeds, we must never fall into the trap of saying any speed is ‘enough.’”
Hunt noted that he is pushing a programme of ultra-fast broadband for cities in the UK, defined as speeds of 80Mbps plus. And he said the government was currently planning how to allocate £300 million available for broadband from the “later years of the license fee” – and how this might be used to bring super-fast connections to a greater number of folks than the current target of 90 per cent of the UK.
We shall see – though there’s definitely progress being made with the UK average clearly heading upwards fast, that’s for sure.
But as to whether the country will be the fastest in Europe by 2015… we mustn’t forget that the likes of the Netherlands and Sweden aren’t going to be standing still for the next couple of years.