The Government announced this week that their Broadband Delivery UK service and other plans to extend the superfast broadband network around the country have led to a boost of £9 billion for companies both small and large.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) intention is for almost the entire country to be connected to superfast broadband by the end of 2020 – although some areas remain without any connection at all.
The DCMS, in partnership with the public infrastructure company Openreach and broadband operators such as BT, Virgin Media, and numerous others, has now extended superfast connectivity to 76% of UK homes and businesses, and normal broadband to nearly the entire country, including some of the most inaccessible parts of Scotland and Wales. The Broadband Delivery UK plan has directly led to the extension of superfast internet to 5 million properties and plans exist to extend that to 98% of properties in the country by the end of 2020.
The independent report, entitled ‘The Evaluation of the Economic Impact and Public Value of the Superfast Broadband Programme’, also found that public investment has led to a twelve-fold dividend for firms; that broadband extension has contributed to 49,000 local jobs; and that it has reduced the need for jobseekers allowance benefits for nearly 9,000 more people. The clearest indication of the Government’s success in this matter is the report’s statement that: “areas covered by the Government’s rollout of superfast broadband have seen a combined £9 billion increase in turnover since the boost to their broadband speed.”
In recent years (the report focused on 2012-2016) the Government has focused on so-called ‘commercially un-viable’ areas of the country, mostly rural or inaccessible, in a bid to improve nationwide standard broadband coverage – which now covers 95% of the country. The DCMS has stated that it is determined to continue its coverage extension to cover the entirety of the UK, stating in a press release: “Take-up of the new technology in areas benefiting from the Government programme is now running at 45% – more than double the expected rate. As a result of the contracts put in place by the Government, those companies will now return more than £500 million in subsidies to the public purse to be used to reach those locations not yet covered by existing plans.”
Some commentators have argued that the Government has been favouring larger firms, both as installers and customers, and that smaller and local businesses can have a part to play. Jeremy Chelot, CEO of Community Fibre, said: “The UK is in desperate need of high quality broadband infrastructure to remain competitive and many smaller and more innovative companies are in a great position to provide this. It is now up to the Government to support and upgrade their growth.”