EU to give go-ahead for UK super-fast broadband scheme

By Danny Palmer
08 Oct 2012 View Comments
European Union flag

The European Union looks set to approve UK government plans for installing superfast broadband throughout the UK by 2015.

European competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia has suggested that he'd like to see some minor changes – without specifying what they are – but looks set to rubber-stamp the £530m of state investment designed to increase connection speeds in rural areas.

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Government aid is deemed to be needed in order to make investment meaningful for internet providers, as they build infrastructure for remote locations.

The Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) scheme was delayed as the EU Competition Commission investigated whether it broke rules on state aid. Following other potential suppliers backing out, BT and Fujistu are the only providers approved to work on the scheme. As a result, Brussels was concerned that BT wouldn't give access to other companies who might wish to rent their fibre or infrastructure in future.

However, the delayed scheme now looks to be going ahead, with EU commissioners reportedly ready to approve the deal following their investigation. The formal announcement is expected to come later this month as the government looks to close the gap between internet speeds in urban and rural areas.

Government optimism about a 2015 rollout for super-fast broadband has repeatedly come under criticism. A report by the Country Land & Business Association suggests that the government is "unlikely" to meet the 2015 target, arguing that there is no legal obligation for internet providers to actually commit to the deal.

Meanwhile, former BT programme manager Lorne Mitchell has branded the government plans a "Westminster myth", arguing rural areas don't have the infrastructure required to successfully implement the scheme.

Last week, BT was forced to deny that it has been hiking broadband costs in rural areas.

"This charge that we're overcharging and inflating rural cost in order to win public funds is, quite frankly, untrue," a BT spokesperson told Computing.

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