Hunt: UK to have Europe’s fastest broadband by 2015


Britain could have the best broadband in Europe but only if it is

future-proofed, according to the Culture Secretary.

Jeremy Hunt, in a speech given at the Google-backed Campus in East London, said that he wanted the UK to have the fastest broadband in Europe within the next three years.

He said that to be the best "you need to be the fastest," adding that the aim was not just to be the best overall, "but specifically the fastest broadband of any major European country."

"Getting the plumbing right for our digital economy is not just an advantage to consumers - it is also essential for our digital and creative industries, all of whom need reliable high-speed networks to develop and export their products as they move large digital files around the world," said Hunt.

The Culture Secretary said that music, animation, video game and television were examples of industries that rely on fast broadband to grow their businesses.

He drew parallels with the UK's high-speed rail network, saying: "My nightmare is we could make the same mistake as we made with high-speed rail."

"When our high-speed network opens from London to Birmingham in 2026, it will be 45 years after the French opened theirs and 62 years after the Japanese opened theirs. Just think how much the economy has been held back by lower productivity for half a century," said Hunt.

Hunt address criticisms made by the House of Lords committee that the Culture Secretary was pre-occupied by speed rather than wider access to broadband in rural areas.

"When the Lords Committee criticised me this summer for being preoccupied with speed, I plead guilty. And so should we all," he said.

"Because we simply will not have a competitive broadband network unless we recognise the massive growth in demand for higher and higher speeds. But where their Lordships are wrong is to say focus is on any particular speed: today's superfast is tomorrow's super slow."

Hunt said the Government is looking to invest 300 million from the television license in providing high-speed broadband access (greater than 24 Mbps) to 90 per cent of the country.

He said the Government would initially be investing in connecting more homes to the slower Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) as a stopgap measure in order to increase speeds quicker. Hunt said that the reason for backing FTTC was "simple".

"The increase in speeds that it will allow - 80Mbps certainly but in certain cases up to 1Gbps - will create Europe's biggest and most profitable high-speed broadband market," he said.

He said this would create conditions where the private sector could invest in Fibre to the Home (FTTH). Hunt said by 2016 over 60 per cent of the country would have access to FTTH.

Latest figures from Ofcom have showed that average broadband speeds across the UK have risen from 6.8Mbps to 9.0Mbps over the past year.

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.