Rural communities and hard to reach areas who do not have access to next generation broadband will benefit from a share of £1 billion of Government investment said Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson today.
The investment will upgrade the UK’s digital infrastructure to bring super-fast broadband to 90% of the country, essential if the UK is to remain globally competitive as estimates suggest that private investment will only reach up to 70% of the population by 2017.
The Next Generation Fund will provide the UK with a world class communications network to bolster innovation and services in digital content.
The Government is now consulting on the most effective way to deploy the investment.
I've been bitching about this stuff for a while now, particularly since my house move in October last year which was to just outside one of the south-west's cities, only to find that my broadband connection would be 512 mbps at best. The fact that this should be classed as the 'middle of nowhere' in broadband availability terms was even more surprising given that my parents can receive a far superior connection down in the darkened depths of Cornwall.
Digital inclusion and access to broadband for all is a hot topic and (inevitably) something of a political fighting ground at the moment. I went along (on work-related duties) to the Parliament and Internet Conference last October - ironically just days before I moved house - where better access to high quality broadband and increased inclusion of those currently excluded from the wonders of cyberspace were high on the agenda.
Ed Richards (CEO of Ofcom) Stephen Timms (Minister for Digital Britain) and Martha Lane Fox (Chair of the Digital Inclusion Task Force), who all gave speeches, collectively dedicated a good portion of time to just these issues.
I also attended the Ofcom Draft Annual Plan meeting in London last week which mentioned a bit more of the same - albeit in rather vague terms, as seems Ofcom's style. Problems with access to decent broadband featured heavily on Ofcom's priorities for 2010: 'progress on broadband and mobile not-spots' and 'support of the Digital Participation Consortium' (both under the head of 'Consumer and Citizen') and 'support of effective competition and efficient investment in super-fast broadband' under the Competition category.
They also outlined potential powers granted under the Digital Economy Bill (should it become law in its current form) with duties/powers to oversee the universal delivery of broadband - whatever that means.
Finland, of course, are taking all of this a step further by making access to decent-ish broadband (1 mbps) a human right by July 2010 and potentially increasing this 100 mbps by 2015.
I guess this makes the UK's efforts look more like a catch-up exercise rather than leading the way forward.
Nothing new there then.