CBI urges government to speed up rural broadband upgrades

Elizabeth Fournier
A LEADING business group has urged the government to speed up its plans to provide superfast broadband to rural households, warning it would be a mistake to push back investment until after the next election.

In a report out this morning called Let’s Get Digital, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) claims it would be more cost-effective to spend the £300m allocated to rural broadband on existing local schemes than to start all over again in 2015.

“The UK has a positive story to tell on digital but we cannot be complacent if we want to stay ahead,” said the CBI’s chief policy director Katja Hall.

“Politicians of all parties must set aside the carping and map out digital plans together for the next decade and beyond.”

The rural broadband project is designed to bring superfast internet to areas where providers like BT consider it economically unviable to do so alone, but the programme has so far been marred by delays.

Earlier this month, culture secretary Maria Miller scrapped a target of bringing superfast internet to 90 per cent of the population by 2015, moving the goalposts to 95 per cent by 2017.

In its report, the CBI also called for a cross-industry and Whitehall review of the UK’s digital infrastructure strategy, as well as a revision of the coalition’s infrastructure spending plan to ensure construction is on track.