Published: 30th Jul 2013
The Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) project was met with much fanfare when it was launched.
Given the explicit task of overseeing the rollout of superfast broadband to rural areas by May 2015, it was supposed to deal with the problem of blackspots and ensure everyone in the UK had access to a good web connection.
However, a series of problems - including a delay in gaining EU state aid for the scheme - has seen the completion date put back 18 months. Now Chi Onwurah, a shadow cabinet office minister, has accused the government of betraying rural areas.
Writing in Computer World UK, she said the scale of the betrayal "is not yet fully appreciated", but it will become clear for all to see in the future.
"Half way through 2013 we know that every rural business unable to email their customers, every student unable to complete their homework online and every farmer unable to upload their (mandatory) DEFRA documentation has this government to blame," Ms Onwurah stated.
A recent report by the National Audit Office was scathing of the progress made by BDUK, as after only three years it is already 18 months behind.
Ms Onwurah pointed out the next government will inherit an "inflexible broadband programme" and concerns are growing that BT will have an effective monopoly when it comes to pricing.
The politician is calling on those in power to make spectrum available so that wireless and satellite services can offer greater competition in rural areas. The beauty of satellite broadband is that any household in the UK can access it, as it doesn't rely on an exchange or cables.
Advertised speeds are also far more accessible, unlike some broadband deals, as they often deliver average speeds much slower than headline rates.
Ms Onwurah fears that 40 per cent of the country will be left without a suitable choice as a result of the programme failure, which could have serious repercussions for some households and businesses.
Posted by Mark Wynn
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