Publicly-funded, local "digital hubs" will help all areas of the UK to have access to superfast broadband by 2015, the government has announced.
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has revealed today that areas with little access to fast internet, which includes mainly rural areas, will be expected to build fibre optic broadband "digital hubs" using money from the £839 million fund the government is making available for the broadband expansion. It would then be up to local communities to extend the network into homes.
Part of the £830 million will come from the money given to the BBC to fund the switch to digital TV, according to BBC News.
Hunt believes that improving the nation’s internet connectivity will by crucial to economic growth, and that it will create “hundreds of thousands of jobs and add billions to our GDP”.
He also said that the scheme would help to save “billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money” and help to build a “fairer and more prosperous society”.
The coalition government said in July that it would not be able to complete the rollout of broadband across the UK until 2015.
Under the previous Labour government’s original plans, everyone in the UK would have had access to 2 megabits per second broadband by 2012. However, the government has not defined the minimum speed for “superfast” broadband.
Instead, it announces its intention to give the UK “the best” broadband network in Europe based on a scorecard that will measure speed, coverage, price and choice.
"These will be made up of a number of composite measures rather than a single factor such as headline download speed,” according to the strategy.
The private sector is expected to deliver superfast internet to two-thirds of the UK. BT has recently expressed interested in using public funds to extend the rollout to 90 percent of the UK by 2017, though the telecommunications giant would be competing for the funds with rivals such as Virgin Media.
However, BT recently confirmed that the first areas of the UK to be given access to its fibre network will not be able to access speeds of 100Mbps.
The areas where fibre was initially rolled-out saw fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) technology installed, with copper cables joining homes to the street cabinets. However, the telecommunications company has revealed it will start deploying the faster fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) technology next.
BT is aiming to ensure around a quarter of UK addresses will have FTTP technology thanks to its £2.5bn fibre network.
Richard Holway, chairman of analyst house TechMarketView, wrote on his blog: “In the wider economy, having a universal superfast broadband network is crucial for the UK economy. I see much more home and mobile working where access to such a superfast service will be essential. I see more innovation being sparked purely because of the exciting opportunities that such a network provides."