A parliamentary inquiry has found that the telecoms sector has “no genuine belief” that broadband targets will be met by the government, despite the targets having been cut in the last few weeks.
The government announced its plans to connect the country in its national infrastructure strategy revealed in November. The government aims to have connected 85% of the country with ultrafast broadband connections by 2025.
Previously, the government had aimed to connect 100% of the country by 2025, however one witness told the DMCS select committee that “there is no genuine belief that it is achievable”.
The committee has warned that even the new target may still be missed unless improvements are made to how the infrastructure plan is managed.
“It would not be acceptable having abandoned one unrealistic target, for the government to fail to meet a second, less ambitious, target through lack of effective planning or inadequate investment,” the committee said in its report.
“The government should outline … how it settled on the new gigabit-capable broadband target of 85% coverage by 2025, a full assessment of how likely it considers it to be met, and the detail of how it plans to deliver it.”
The committee also voiced scepticism over the government’s last-minute shift to a “technology-neutral” approach to achieve their goals.
The initial plan involved installing full-fibre connections running to every doorstep in the UK, however the new strategy seeks to leverage other forms of broadband, including 5G.
The committee said that even though the shift made sense, “the government must not let it come with a trade-off in performance or longevity: any technologies used to deliver gigabit connectivity must be future-proof.
“Moreover, fibre will be a significant component of other gigabit-capable technologies, such as 5G, and therefore the challenges of rolling out a truly nationwide full-fibre network must not be underestimated.”
The committee also highlighted that the £5bn the government has set aside to provide broadband to the hardest to reach homes in the country, was insufficient.
“It is difficult to see how £5bn will be enough to meet the government’s aim [and] it is therefore disappointing that over the next four years, the government will make available only 25% of the £5bn it had committed,” the report said.
Minister for digital infrastructure, Matt Warman, said: “Today we’ve set out our bold programme of national infrastructure projects to future-proof the UK’s internet networks so we can build back better from coronavirus and create new jobs and economic opportunities.
“We will begin these procurements rapidly so broadband providers big and small can move quickly to get the job done and level up communities with this much faster, next generation broadband.”
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