Gordon Brown has compared superfast broadband to ‘the electricity of the digital age’ and said that, like electricity, it should be available to all.
In a speech today, the Prime Minister renewed Labour’s commitment to make superfast broadband available across the UK, not just to certain areas.
Find out more about the future of broadband in the UK in the Which? broadband review.
Some people in the UK are already reaping the benefits of superfast broadband, with both BT and Virgin Media rolling out broadband speeds of 40Mbps or higher to selected areas.
But the government says it’s concerned that if investment in superfast broadband networks is left to market forces alone, parts of the country will never get high broadband speeds.
As part of its Digital Britain report issued last year, the government stated that it wanted to rollout superfast broadband to as much of the UK as possible by 2012. In his speech today, Mr Brown said he wanted to increase that ‘to 100% access to every home’ by 2020.
Paying for superfast broadband
To help pay for a UK-wide superfast broadband network, the government plans to introduce a 50p-a-month supplement on all phone lines – it believes that this is necessary to ensure that the overwhelming majority of the country has access to superfast broadband.
If the rollout is left to market forces, it says, there will be a ‘digital divide’ between those who can and can’t access superfast broadband and the benefits it may bring in terms of access to public services and improved entertainment options.
The Conservatives also want to ensure the rollout of superfast broadband across the UK, but claim that a phone line supplement is not necessary.
Broadband universal service commitment
At present, some parts of the UK still suffer from very low broadband speed, or in some cases can’t get broadband at all. For people living in these areas, a priority is to get a decent, reliable broadband service to enable them to easily carry out basic online tasks.
To address this problem, the Digital Britain report also outlines a commitment to bring a universal broadband service of 2Mbps to everyone in the UK by 2012.
Which? broadband expert Ceri Stanaway says: ‘Demands on our broadband network are growing rapidly – BBC iPlayer is a good example – and it’s important to look to the future of our digital economy. There may well come a time when 50Mbps is seen as the norm rather than the exception.
‘But at present, a solid, reliable 2Mbps should be plenty for basic tasks such as emailing or browsing the web. The current focus should be on delivering this minimum level of service to everyone in the UK and ensuring that promised broadband speeds match the reality.’
Read the Which? guide on how to boost your broadband speed for more on what affects how fast your broadband service is and how to improve your broadband speed.
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