Government "must commit" to broadband targets for UK rural not spots

Broadband speed dial

Pressure is growing on the government to set a deadline for when the final five per cent of the UK can expect to get access to superfast broadband services.

The government previously committed to providing 95 per cent of UK premises with superfast broadband services by 2017, but no firm dates have been set out for when the remainder will get access.

This is a situation the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee is keen to rectify, according to the contents of its report into the lack of broadband coverage in remote areas.

The contents was compiled from responses given during two evidence sessions by a host of farming groups, rural economy experts, as well as BT, Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), The Cabinet Office and DEFRA.

The report highlights the fact, despite efforts to improve connectivity in rural areas through initiatives like BDUK, too many businesses and householders in these areas are being denied access to online services the rest of the country takes for granted.

Furthermore, it also revealed the 2017 date the government is working towards is in danger of being pushed back, much to the Committee's dismay.

"We were concerned to hear BT tell us that the present target of 95 per cent of premises receiving superfast broadband by 2017 may slip," the report states.

"Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) must make it clear that the target date must be met. A target date for when the last 5 per cent of premises will obtain access to superfast broadband coverage must be published."

The report also takes issue with the government's pledge that internet speeds of 2Mbps and above will be accessible to all in the future, and its definition of superfast broadband services as being anything above 24 Mbps.

On the former point, the Committee said much of the written evidence it has received suggests consistent speeds of 2Mbps and more aren't consistently delivered to the UK population, as speeds drop during peak times.

This level of speed is fine for those that want to access basic websites and read emails, it continues, but precludes those that want to access high-definition media services.

"For many services, 2 Megabits per second (Mbps) is already an outdated figure, and 10 Mbps is increasingly recommended as a suitable USC [Universal Service Commitment] for standard provision," the report states.

"The government must reassess whether the 2Mbps Universal Service Commitment remains a valid one."

Meanwhile, on the topic of superfast services, the report warns by the time the time the 2017 date rolls round speeds of 24 Mbps will seem outdated.

This is based on the fact that many European countries are already working towards delivering speeds of 30Mbps to their residents.

"Millions of pounds are being invested in the rollout of superfast broadband at 24 Megabits per second. Within three years of the expected delivery date, however, that speed will no longer be considered superfast' by European standards," the report adds.

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.