Treasury minister Andrew Jones: UK's broadband is dependent on century-old network

 
Oliver Gill
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BT subsidiary Openreach owns the majority of Britain's broadband infrastructure

The roll-out of faster broadband is being hamstrung by a network that is more than a hundred years old, a government minister has revealed.

Exchequer secretary Andrew Jones launched the government’s digital infrastructure investment fund today in Peterborough. The fund is being set up entice private investment into the UK’s ageing telecoms infrastructure.

But Jones stood by a government pledge to ensure that 95 per cent of Britain will have access to superfast broadband by the end of the year.

Read more: The government's kickstarting its plans to make Britain more digital

“The problem is that at the moment most people’s broadband runs off old telephone lines and cables that were laid decades ago,” Jones said.

We may even think we’ve got fibre broadband. But actually, we’re often still relying on old copper wires for the final bit of the connection to our homes, and some of these – I’m not joking – date back over a hundred years

He continued: “Just the average age is about 33 years!”

The UK has been criticised for lagging behind many other countries for the state of its telecoms infrastructure. Openreach owns the majority of the UK’s network. Regulator Ofcom recently relaxed some of the pricing to encourage new players to lay their own cables and compete with the BT subsidiary.

Jones said: “What we want now is full fibre. We’ll all have noticed that at certain times of high demand, our internet speeds drop to a crawl.

Well, that’s not some mystical phenomenon, when the Gods of the Internet just aren’t on your side.

It all goes back to those ageing lines that are connecting you, which just can’t cope with the level of demand they’re being put under… That’s what this government is acting to change.

A study released in June revealed it wasn’t just remote areas of the UK that suffer from slow internet speeds. While Orkney and the Shetland Islands had the worse average broadband speeds, the London borough of Southwark featured near the top of the slowish areas.

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