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The UK has one of the highest levels of broadband penetration in the world and one of the highest take-up rates of mobile broadband. However, a third of the country is not commercially attractive for the roll-out of superfast broadband. This tends to be more rural areas with lower population densities and greater distances from local exchanges.

Faster broadband speeds enable larger files to be uploaded and downloaded more quickly and allow the use of a range of “next generation” applications which benefit both business efficiency and effectiveness and an individual’s access to Government services, online retailing and social networking. Coalition government policy is therefore, like the previous Government’s policy, currently geared towards ensuring that a digital divide based on broadband speed does not emerge between urban and rural areas. The Government has allocated £530 million to do this with a multi-faceted broadband strategy Britain’s superfast broadband future (December 2010) which seeks to incentivise the deployment of broadband through a variety of technologies with the removal of potential economic and policy barriers.

This note sets out the current situation with regard to broadband access and coverage in the UK and provides an overview of the Government’s broadband policy. It also highlights some examples of regional and local initiatives underway to improve broadband coverage.

It does not seek to analyse the merits of the different methods of broadband deployment which may be used to meet the Government’s broadband targets. Nor does it detail broader digital inclusion initiatives to encourage people to get on-line in the first place such as Race Online 2012.

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