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Summary

Government targets and roll out

Superfast broadband has been rolled out to much of the country on commercial terms by providers such as BT and Virgin Media. The Government’s policy is to provide funding to support the roll-out of superfast broadband to those areas of the UK where commercial roll-out is not economically viable. This is mostly, but not entirely, in rural areas.

The Government defines superfast as download speeds greater than 24Mbps (Megabits per second). Ofcom, the communications regulator in the UK, defines it as at least 30Mbps.

Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), part of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is responsible for implementing the Government’s policy on superfast broadband roll-out which consists of three stages:

  • provide superfast broadband coverage to 90% of UK premises by early 2016 and access to basic broadband (2Mbps) for all from December 2015 – “Phase 1”
  • provide superfast broadband coverage to 95% of UK premises by the end of 2017 – “Phase 2”
  • explore options to provide superfast coverage to the hardest to reach parts of the UK – “the final 5%”

In response to a PQ in January 2017 about its proposals to improve internet access and speeds in rural areas the Government stated that it was:

  1. … committed to improving access to quality broadband services to as many people in the UK as possible. This is why £1.7 billion of public money is being invested to support improvements in superfast broadband services across the UK. Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) is committed to bringing superfast broadband access to 95 per cent of UK premises by the end of the year. By 2020, this should reach 97 per cent through a combination of public and commercial investment. To ensure that no one is left behind, the Government is also introducing a new broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO) within this Parliament. The USO will give households and businesses the legal right to request a broadband connection with speeds of at least 10 Megabits, no matter where they live or work.[1]

UK Coverage

Ofcom’s Connected Nations report, published in December 2016, tracks progress in the availability of superfast broadband and provides detailed information on broadband coverage across the UK.

It noted:

  • the average download speed for the entire UK is 37Mbps, although speeds available to customers vary considerably;
  • 5% of (about 1.4 million) UK premises are unable to receive speeds faster than 10Mbps;
  • superfast broadband – speeds greater than 30 Mbps – is now available in 89% of (over 25 million) UK premises, with take-up of 31%.

Further information

Ofcom, Connected Nations 2016, 16 December 2016

Library Briefing Paper 06643, Superfast Broadband Coverage in the UK, 18 August 2016

POST – Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, UK Broadband Infrastructure, 29 May 2015

[1]     PQ HL4671


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