Secretary for culture defends Urban Broadband Fund header image

Published: 7th Mar 2013

Culture secretary Maria Miller has defended the government's plan to fund the improvement of broadband connections in the UK's largest cities.

The Urban Broadband Fund will provide £150 million to aid the rollout of ultra-fast internet connections with speeds of 80 Mbp/s to 100 Mbp/s in some of the most densely populated areas of the country.

There are also plans for the introduction of large areas of public Wi-Fi access. It is hoped this will lead to each of the UK's major urban areas becoming 'super-connected cities'.

However, these plans have proved controversial and have been criticised by Neil Berkett, the chief executive of Virgin Media.

He claimed the government should focus its investment on "ensuring consumers and businesses have the skills to make the most of digital, rather than looking to build infrastructure".

In response to such claims, Ms Miller told the Telegraph the urban broadband project is crucial to winning the "global race", which the prime minister has highlighted as key to the future prosperity of the UK economy.

The culture secretary said the government will "forge ahead" with the plans and demonstrate the fundamental impact improved broadband services can have on whole communities.

She stated: "The market isn't working perfectly in the urban areas. Complete, contiguous coverage is not what the market is delivering. And where the market isn't delivering there's opportunities for these sorts of intervention, whether in rural or urban areas."

Mrs Miller also claimed that moving on to super-fast broadband connections will be a natural progression for the majority of people, as they are already aware of the benefits of the internet.

She stressed that the government is doing all it can to encourage more competition in the broadband sector. "We cannot allow legal proceedings to get in the way of new services becoming available to customers. The issue is absolutely in our sights. We're looking at it and how we can reduce those delays," said Mrs Miller.

Posted by Mark Wynn