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Superfast Broadband Rollout: WH Debate 24 June 2015

Published Friday, June 19, 2015

This debate pack has been prepared for the Westminster Hall debate on Superfast broadband rollout on Wednesday 24 June at 2.30pm. It sets out the current situation with regard to broadband access and coverage and provides an overview of the Government’s broadband policy for the UK. It focuses on the delivery of broadband targets and funding in England as the devolved administrations have their own delivery programmes. In addition, appendices found at the bottom of this page provide detailed data on broadband speeds and superfast availability by region and parliamentary constituency, including maps.

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This debate pack has been prepared for the Westminster Hall debate on Superfast broadband rollout on Wednesday 24 June at 2.30pm.

Headline broadband commitments

The Coalition Government’s main broadband commitments were first detailed in a broadband strategy – Britain’s superfast broadband future – in December 2010. This strategy set the Government’s ambition and allocated £530 million: to provide everyone in the UK with access to broadband with a download speed of at least 2Mbps (megabits per second); and to bring ‘superfast broadband’ (at least 24Mbps) to 90% of UK homes and businesses.

Later, in 2013, the Government increased its ambition, allocating an additional £250 million to provide 95% of the UK with ‘superfast broadband’ by 2017. The Government is also exploring different approaches to delivering superfast broadband to the remaining hardest to reach areas – namely, remote and rural areas.

In total, the Coalition Government committed £730 million on its superfast broadband programme, in order to extend: Superfast broadband for 90% of the UK – phase 1; Superfast broadband to 95% of the UK by 2017 – phase 2; and Superfast broadband coverage to the “final 5%” of UK premises – phase 3.

The new Conservative Government’s 2015 election manifesto reaffirmed this ambition. It also restated their commitment to deliver superfast broadband to 95% of the UK by 2017, and pledged that rural Britain would have “near universal” superfast broadband by the end of the 2015 Parliament.

On 14 May 2015, the Government announced that the nationwide rollout of its superfast broadband programme had brought superfast broadband to 2.5 million more homes & businesses.

Funding and delivery: Broadband Delivery UK

Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), a team within the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), was established to manage the delivery of the Government’s broadband strategy and the roll-out of broadband in rural areas. BDUK has allocated funding to each local authority in England, while funding has also been allocated to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The individual projects are the responsibility of local authorities and the Devolved Administrations, as set out in BDUK’s delivery model.

In England each county council or local enterprise partnership leads broadband roll-out in their area, drawing up an effective delivery plan, and matching the Government’s investment with European, their own or private funds. BT is the only company to have been awarded a delivery contract. The Public Accounts Committee published its report on the Government’s rural broadband programme in September 2013, where Chair of the Committee, Margaret Hodge, raised concerns over the Department’s management of its superfast broadband roll out and BT’s “quasi-monopolistic” position.

A series of pilot projects exploring how alternative technologies could be used to tackle difficult areas is underway, and the Government plan to publish the findings from the trials later this year.

How does the UK compare internationally? 

The UK’s definition of superfast broadband is set at speeds of at least 24Mbps. This is slower than the EU’s definition, as outlined in its Digital Agenda for Europe, which is set at speeds of 30Mbps or above.

Ofcom – the communications industry regulator – publishes data on four headline indicators: coverage and take-up; speed; price; and choice. These four indicators can be used to compare the UK’s broadband network relative to those in other EU countries. This scorecard approach was proposed by BDUK, and compares speeds with EU5 countries—France, Germany, Italy and Spain. In February 2015, the last of these “European Scorecards” was published:  

Overview of the UK’s position on the Scorecard relative to the EU5, for both the previous and current Scorecard, including data (excluding pricing)

 

Data

EU5 ranking

Standard Broadband coverage

95-100% (95-100%)

=1 (=1)

Broadband coverage of Next Generation Access (NGA) broadband connections

80-85% (70-75%)

1 (1)

Mobile broadband coverage

95-100% (95-100%)

=1 (=1)

Fixed broadband connections per 100 households

82 (83)

2 (1)

Fixed broadband connections per 100 people

34 (34)

3 (3)

Broadband connections with a headline speed of ‘more than or equal to’ 30Mbps per 100 people

9 (9)

1 (1)

Mobile broadband connections per 100 people

89 (84)

1 (1)

Percentage of individuals accessing the internet at least once a week

89% (87%)

1 (1)

Percentage of individuals that have never used the internet

6% (8%)

1 (1)

Percentage of individuals who interacted online with public authorities within the last 12 months

51% (41%)

3 (4)

Percentage of fixed broadband lines operated by incumbent

33% (31%)

1 (1)

Percentage market share of leading mobile network operators (MNOs)

29% (31%)

2 (1)

Note: Data and rankings for December 2014 Scorecard listed in bold. Data and rankings for March 2014 Scorecard listed in parentheses.

Source: Ofcom, The European Broadband Scorecard, (February 2015)

Worldwide comparisons can be made by looking at the World Bank’s Broadband Strategies Toolkit.  This shows that the UK, whilst performing strongly in comparison to its neighbours in the EU, has set lower ambitions than:

  • Australia – who are targeting superfast broadband speeds at up to 100 Mbps in 93% of homes, schools and businesses by 2021;
  • Finland – who are targeting a baseline speed of 100 Mbps, by 2015; and
  • South Korea – who are aiming to offer its citizens a 1Gbps connection by 2017.

Further reading

POSTNote, UK Broadband Infrastructure, Number 494, (May 2015)

Oxera, The UK’s National Broadband Scheme—an independent ex post evaluation of the UK’s broadband state aid measure, (27 March 2015)

Ofcom, The European Broadband Scorecard, (February 2015)

EU, Broadband Scorecard for the UK (2015)

EU, Broadband Scorecard General Report (2015)

Commons Debate packs CDP-2015-0017

Authors: David Hirst; Nikki Sutherland

Topics: Information technology, Internet and cybercrime, Telecommunications

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