Government broadband plans criticised for being too "speed-focused"

Broadband speed

A House of Lords Select Committee has criticised the Government's broadband strategy for being too speed-focused.

The Government is working towards providing superfast broadband speeds of up to 24Mbps to at least 90 per cent of UK homes and businesses by 2015, as well universal access to standard broadband services of at least 2Mbps.

What use is a fast connection if it is only achievable at certain times of the day?

A new select committee report, entitled Broadband For All - An Alternative Vision, appears to take issue with the Government's targets, claiming high speed is not the only way to gauge good broadband performance.

"Symmetry, latency, jitter, reliability and contention are also critical. What use is a fast connection if it is only achievable at certain times of the day," asks the report.

"We recommend that future broadband policy should not be built around precise speed targets end users can expect to receive in the short-term, however attractive these may be for sloganeers."

The document then calls on the Government to rethink its existing broadband plans to incorporate some of the Select Committee's own ideas.

These include the development of a national broadband network based on optical connectivity that would provide open access fibre-optic hubs within every community.

"Every community should be within reach of an open access fibre-optic hub," states the report.

"This would allow diverse providers, large and small, to contribute to the reach and resilience of our national connectivity and allow all individuals to benefit from whichever services, including public ones, will run over it in time to come."

However, the report stops short of giving precise details about the number of hubs that would be required and how much they would cost to build.

"We recommend that the Government consider our vision for the UK's broadband infrastructure as set out in this report. As a first step, we recommend that the Government undertake detailed costings of our proposal," the document suggests.

The report also claims that, thanks the UK's buoyant online economy, failing to address the broadband needs of the nation could have dire consequences.

"The Government's strategy is based on the belief that enhanced broadband provision will be a catalyst for economic dynamism," said the report.

"Equally, it could be argued that the UK's strong performance in the internet economy means that the UK has more to lose if it falls behind."

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.