The government has delivered its pledge to extend superfast broadband to 95 per cent of UK homes and business premises, according to statistics from the department for digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS).
By the end of 2017, over 19 out of 20 home and business owners had the opportunity to upgrade their internet connections to broadband speeds of 24Mbps or faster.
As a result, the government’s plan to rollout superfast broadband to areas of the country deemed not to be “commercially viable” – the majority of which are in rural areas – has so far reached more than 4.5m premises.
The government claimed that its £1.7bn rollout plan had gone a long way to closing the “digital divide” in rural areas and delivered a big boost to local economies.
Some 50,000 new local jobs and an extra £8.9bn in turnover were created between 2013 and 2016 because of the rollout of superfast broadband, according to DCMS figures.
DCMS secretary Matt Hancock commented that despite reaching the milestone, the government had more work to do to make Britain more connected digitally. He said: “We’ve delivered on our commitment to reach 95% of homes and businesses in the UK, but there’s still more to do in our work building a Britain that’s fit for the future.
“We’re reaching thousands more premises every single week, and the next commitment is to make affordable, reliable, high speed broadband a legal right to everyone by 2020.”
The announcement comes after an Ofcom report, published in December, revealed that 500,000 small UK businesses were still unable to access superfast broadband, and that a huge disparity still existed between businesses in major cities and those in more remote parts of the country.
Ofcom found that as of May 2017, some 84 per cent of UK SME businesses were able to access superfast broadband, with around half a million firms operating with download speeds of under 30 megabits per second – the lower limit for superfast broadband.
FSB national chairman, Mike Cherry, said that poor broadband coverage continued to hinder small companies, and that improvements to digital connectivity in Britain didn’t appear fast enough.
He added: “It’s essential that small businesses do not continue to be left behind due to poor broadband. Businesses want to embrace digital technology to compete and enhance their productivity, but to do this they need a decent connection and good quality service.
“While it’s good to see superfast coverage has continued to improve, half a million businesses still don’t have access to superfast broadband. The rate of improvement doesn’t appear fast enough to make inroads into the UK’s productivity problems.”
CEO at Openreach – the government’s major delivery partner of broadband infrastructure – Clive Selley, said that the rate at which superfast broadband delivery had been stepped up throughout 2017 was “an extraordinary achievement”.
Selley said: We have come a long way in a short space of time, with one of the fastest broadband deployments in the world. We’re determined to get Britain – the whole of Britain – hooked up to decent broadband speeds.
“[Openreach will] be continuing to expand our network to address the remaining not-spots through a combination of our own commercial programmes and our partnerships with local authorities and communities.”
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