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UK government's rural broadband rollout under scrutiny

The coalition's plans are being criticised both internally and externally

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The UK government is likely to miss its deadline to provide super-fast broadband to 90 percent of the UK by 2015, according to a report by the Country, Land & Business Association (CLA).

It could also fail in its bid to make 2Mbps speeds available to every home and business in the UK – including those in rural areas – according to the report.

The CLA said it was concerned the slow funding process and a reliance on fibre optic networks were prolonging the rural-urban digital divide, adding that the BDUK (the delivery vehicle for these policies) is too bureaucratic and the allocation of the £530million government funding too slow.

“We recognise that delivering this type of infrastructure is not easy but it is unlikely the government will meet these objectives,” said CLA president Harry Cotterell.

“It would be much simpler if the funding was allocated centrally rather than giving it directly to local authorities because they do not have the resource to plan for a superfast broadband network.”

Cotterell said that, rather than putting too much focus on fibre optic infrastructure, the government should be implementing a “patchwork quilt” model that uses the most appropriate technologies for a certain area.

A separate report in The Guardian reveals that the government has paid consultants nearly £3 million to help civil servants select companies to build a rural broadband network.

However, the selection of just two suppliers – BT and Fujitsu – has resulted in the process being stalled for six months because European regulators are concerned it is anti-competitive. In particular Brussels is concerned that BT is not offering sufficiently open access to its fibre infrastructure.

“The European Commission at a very senior level are very concerned that the incumbents in Europe are not investing what they should be in fibre,” said Malcolm Corbett, chief executive of the Independent Networks Co-operative Association. “Without competition incumbents will just go slowly.”

The European Commission has set its own targets for the rollout of super-fast broadband – it wants to see speeds of up to 30Mbps available to all EU citizens by 2020.


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