Hunt unveils broadband plan

City A.M. Reporter
BRITAIN should have a digital hub in every community to help it build Europe’s best broadband network by 2015, which could create up to 600,000 new jobs and add £18bn to GDP, the government said yesterday.

Culture ministers Jeremy Hunt and Ed Vaizey, announcing an extra £50m for broadband pilots in remote and rural areas, said former state telecoms monopoly BT and local communities could both play key roles.

Britain currently ranks 10th in Europe in terms of fixed-line broadband penetration, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Hunt said the government’s £830m investment should stimulate the private sector to follow suit and said local communities should organise the delivery of superfast broadband from the digital hubs to individual users.

“We want to do more than bridge the digital divide,” Hunt and Vaizey said in a strategy document.

About four-fifths of British fixed broadband connections are via digital subscriber lines (DSL), according to the OECD, with the remainder via cable provided by the likes of Virgin Media. The average connection speed is 5.2 megabits per second (Mbps).

The coalition, which has delayed the previous government’s commitment to universal coverage of 2 Mbps to 2015 from 2012, said the criteria it would use to judge its performance in delivering the “best” network were still in development.