2011 Round-up: Broadband rollout in the UK

By Derek du Preez
29 Dec 2011 View Comments
Fibre optic broadband

It has been a turbulent year for broadband in the UK. 2011 has seen government and network operators make noticeable progress in establishing effective roadmaps for the future, while suffering blows that could hinder rollout of Britain's digital infrastructure long term.

Further reading

The UK's rollout of next generation broadband access set out to create, as Chancellor George Osborne put it in his Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) last October, the best superfast network in the whole of Europe by 2015.

Osborne said he would allocate £530m of government money up until 2015 to ensure that 90 per cent of households in each local authority could access super-fast broadband.

As part of the Review, Osborne announced four pilot projects, in the Highlands and Islands, North Yorkshire, Cumbria and Hertfordshire, which were set to be examples of how the public and private sectors could work together to ensure broadband services in hard-to-reach rural areas.

The projects were allocated between £5m and £10m each and the local authorities were charged with sourcing suppliers to begin implementations.

This was followed by a further tranche of funding, worth £50m, made available in May to Wiltshire, Norfolk, Devon and Somerset, for the next batch of pilots.

However, these pilots were brought into question in December when a freedom of information request, submitted by the Countryside Alliance, highlighted that the millions of pounds distributed to the local authorities has not yet been spent.

The information showed that Highlands and Islands were yet to spend any money at all, while Cumbria spent just £20k, Herefordshire £50k and Yorkshire £500k.

The Countryside Alliance argued that while the government's allocation of money was commendable, it had not provided enough support and guidance to make sure each local authority was able to put network rollout plans into action.

"It has been over a year since these pilots were set up and the people who live in areas with no or unreliable broadband coverage have not seen any improvement," said Alice Barnard, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance.

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