Councils 'aren't confident govt's broadband target will be achieved' header image

Published: 22nd Jun 2016

Councils across the UK do not have confidence in the government's ability to achieve its target of rolling out super-fast broadband speeds to 95 per cent of the country by 2017, according to a new study.

The new report from the Country Councils Network (CCN) reveals that 45 per cent of its members do not believe subsidised broadband goals will be met by the original date proposed.

According to the government, the idea of providing the majority of the country with access to super-fast speeds is to be able to boast that the UK offers the best internet services in Europe, but the CCN believes this ambition could leave rural communities in the lurch.

The network claims that there is a risk of putting a barrier in the path of the countryside and the £35 billion in additional economic growth it could achieve if connectivity is improved - if figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are to be believed.

It would not be the first time that the government has failed to achieve a target in this specific area, as plans to roll out super-fast broadband to 90 per cent of homes by 2015 were delayed by a year.

In addition, the original plan to connect 90 per cent of business premises by 2015 has been shifted to 95 per cent by 2017.

During his Budget speech last week, chancellor George Osborne said the government now wants to provide nearly all UK homes with 'ultra-fast' speeds, which describe those of 100 Mbps or more, but a timetable was not outlined.

The Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme itself, designed to oversee the rollout, was held back originally due to the fact that European regulators had to give the go-ahead for state subsidies. Furthermore, the process has been hindered as the government struggled to find rival companies to bid against BT.

Martin Hill, Lincolnshire council leader and spokesman for infrastructure at the CCN, said: "Counties are pulling out all the stops to get our communities connected ... CCN members contributed on average about £5.5 million for the initial round of the process with more funding for subsequent work.

"The [programme] is on the right track, but it needs to be more flexible and transparent to ensure our goals are met and the final five per cent of unconnected communities get access to broadband at a reasonable price. BDUK needs to ensure counties can obtain best value for their investments."