Culture secretary calls for quicker cable broadband rollout

Written by Antony Leather

September 15, 2011 | 13:20

Tags: #bt-infinity #mobile-broadband #superfast-broadband

Companies: #bit-tech #virgin-media

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned that the rollout of fibre optic broadband isn't happening quickly enough in the UK.

According to The Guardian Hunt told the Royal Television Society convention in Cambridge that the UK was in danger of falling behind the rest of Europe, not only in terms of speed, but also the percentage of homes with broadband connections.

Hunt reportedly said time was running out to meet the government's stated aim of connecting 90 per cent of UK homes to broadband by 2015.

The culture secretary claims that disputes between BT and rival companies, such as Fujitsu, over the price of renting its telegraph poles and underground ducts to lay fibre network cables, were taking too long to settle.

'We need to ensure we do not make the same mistake in broadband that we made in railways,' said Hunt, 'building our high-speed network 45 years after the French and 62 years after the Japanese'

This week he also announced that some local councils would receive funding towards building their own fibre optic networks, with Suffolk getting £11.68m and Rutland being awarded £710,000. Both will now tender their contracts, with the winning bidders committed to matching the funding. Mr Hunt added that he is 'a strong believer that competition is the biggest driver of investment both at the retail and infrastructure level.' However, he added that he doesn't 'believe the market is working as well as it should.'

Mobile data networks were not immune from criticism either. Recent statistics show that over half of UK Internet users access the Web via mobile devices, and Mr Hunt reportedly pleaded with mobile networks to put aside their differences to speed up the 4G radio spectrum auction. This is needed to increase the capacity on already strained networks due to the huge increases in smartphone usage.

Do you think the UK will be able to keep pace with the rest of Europe, or will it fall behind in the broadband stakes? Let us know in the forum.
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