Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has been playing up to claims that when it comes to broadband, his main interest is speed, not coverage. He even went as far as saying that himself: “when the Lords Committee criticised me this summer for being preoccupied with speed, I plead guilty. And so should we all,” he said.
However, this sound bite for news crews misses the fact that not only does Mr Hunt intend for Britain to have the fastest broadband in Europe by 2015, but that coverage for the top speeds will be in the region of 90 per cent. Of course at this stage that’s just the plan and the government behind it might not even be in power by the time that date rolls around – but it’s an admirable claim.
Especially considering the fact that earlier this year, as part of a report by data firm Akamai, the UK ranked 16th in Europe: one of the slowest of the bunch for uploads, downloads and general growth. To combat this Mr Hunt is pushing the somewhat controversial Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC) technology. While this does provide speeds of up to 80Mbits per second, it’s far from the speed that can be achieved with the Fibre To The Home (FTTH) tech which can reach the eye watering one Gigabit per second.
Expecting people to call him on this fact, Mr Hunt’s plans don’t stop with FTTC, he described it as “a temporary stepping stone” to FTTH, which the report claims will be available to two thirds of the UK by 2016.
Why not just do that now? Apparently it would be far too expensive. £10 billion is the quoted figure and on top of that, it’s claimed that private enterprise would be destroyed in doing so. The point being, Mr Hunt believes it would be far better if private companies, like BT, built a FTTC network now and then in a few years time those fibre optics can be extended from the local cabinets to individual houses. Either way it’s a big job, but if the plan strays on track, broadband speeds could take a dramatic jump in the next few years.
One thing that should be noted however, is that to help achieve these goals, Mr Hunt is proposing the removal of several “barriers” to broadband deployment. These include:
- plans to relax the rules on overhead lines;
- guidance issued to local councils on streetworks and microtrenching;
- the development of specifications for broadband in new building; and
- an independent review by the Law Commission of the Electronic Communications Code
KitGuru Says: Does this mean we’ll all have to put up with more overhead lines and roadworks? Very possibly. Is that worth the trade off? What do you guys think?