The British government has passed a National Infrastructure Plan in which it sets out an ambitious goal: that by 2015 the UK will have rolled out the most developed super fast internet access network in Europe. In the October 2010 plan the Government vows to put 530 million pounds (cca 607 million EUR) of public money towards the development of the British broadband network, including in some of the most remote areas of the country.
The promised funds will be attained from BBC licence fees and the funds left over in the fund for the switchover from analogue to digital television. The Government promises that in December a national broadband strategy is to follow the plan.
The infrastructural plan relies greatly on the private sector, as it foresees investments by telecommunications companies in the upgrading and rolling out of networks. The main role of the public sector will be to ensure the efficiency of the market and to invest in networks in places where investments by the private sector will not be deemed economically viable. As part of this role, super fast broadband pilot projects in North Yorkshire, Cumbria, Herefordshire, and the Highlands and Islands are set to begin.
First protests in connection with the Government’s plan are already being voiced within the industry. Objections are being made that the Government should, instead on Internet speed, focus primarily on the digital inclusion of Britons and help some 10 million of its citizens not yet using the Internet to get to know the benefits of the World Wide Web.
A simple calculation shows that in rural areas the roll-out of so-called Next Generation Networks, that is networks with super fast broadband Internet would cost upward of 1,000 pounds (cca 1,500 EUR) per home passed, with past experience indicating that only 10 to 20% of households would opt to connect to the network. This would mean that a household’s upgrade of internet speed from 2 Mbps to 40 Mbps would actually cost the state 5,000 pounds (cca 5,700 EUR). Critics warn that this sum could easily be used to teach 10 to 20 people how to use broadband internet via normal ADSL or UMTS connections.