Rural Communities - Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Contents

3  Broadband and mobile

31.  In the previous chapter we identified a number of areas of public service provision in which rural communities are at a funding disadvantage. This 'rural penalty' is not limited to public services, it is also acute in many areas of infrastructure, not least the provision of high-quality broadband. Businesses, schools and households in rural areas have fallen behind their urban counterparts when it comes to broadband access. In 2010, 11% of rural households had no broadband and 12% had access only to slow broadband.[46]

32.  The lack of adequate broadband has been identified repeatedly as one of the key barriers to growth for the rural economy. Broadband offers rural businesses the means to overcome the barrier of distance to markets and customers in order to grow their business. As Paul Johnson, Chair of Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership, told us:

The broadband issue is incredibly important. It helps small, isolated businesses get access to information and their marketplace, and to market themselves. It is clearly important. It also impacts on quality of life for those doing schoolwork at home, and businessmen who do business at work and then want to complete work in the evenings. If you are going back into a location that looks attractive but has no broadband access, it is incredibly frustrating as a place to settle and work.

Broadband is also important in bringing customers into a location, this is particularly evident in the tourism industry. High-quality broadband connections allow rural businesses to market themselves cheaply and effectively and take bookings over the internet; the lack of it can have an adverse impact on a business's ability to attract guests as many tourists now expect decent broadband connectivity while away from home.

33.  BT highlight the importance of superfast broadband to the economy:

Superfast broadband will further boost the rural economy by providing businesses with access to the same facilities as businesses based in towns and cities, and reach out to customers worldwide. Businesses will be more flexible around where they are based, bringing employment to areas where people traditionally leave to find work, and existing rural businesses will be able to conduct their business with the same efficiency as others who are able to access information easily and send complex documents or use burgeoning online services.[47]

The Federation of Small Businesses 2012 'Voice of small business' survey of 3,000 members found that 63% of small rural firms were dissatisfied with the speed of their broadband connections, and 34% bemoaned its reliability.[48] Reliable high-quality broadband is crucial to reducing the competitive disadvantage rural businesses are faced with compared with their urban rivals. Without it rural businesses will struggle to grow and expand and the true potential of the rural economy will not be realised. It is no longer a luxury; indeed as central and local government move more of their services to digital by default, broadband has become an essential utility.

The Government's proposals

34.  Soon after the current Government took office it pledged that the UK would have "the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015".[49] Commenting at the launch of rural broadband programme in June 2010 the then Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP, underlined the importance of broadband for rural communities:

Providing effective broadband connections for rural communities is one of my top priorities. Broadband access for rural communities is essential if we are to provide the means for their economies and businesses to grow and to minimise the social digital divide for people living in rural areas. I will work closely with colleagues across Government to make this happen.[50]

35.  In a speech in May 2011 Jeremy Hunt MP, the then Culture Secretary, gave further details of the Government's ambitions which included nine out of 10 homes and businesses to have access to 'superfast' broadband (24Mbps) and everyone to have access to at least 2Mbps by 2015.[51]

36.  Figures from Ofcom's 2011 Infrastructure report on broadband take up revealed the scale of the challenge facing the Government.[52] According to Ofcom 86% of the UK's households had access to at least 2Mbps broadband, while only around 60% of households had access to superfast connections.[53]

37.  There are two Government funds available to support its objectives:

  • Rural Broadband Programme—A £530million fund allocated to local authorities and devolved administrations who are then responsible for managing the procurement process in accordance with a framework set out by BDUK—a body set up with the explicit purpose of overseeing the delivery of the Government's broadband commitments. The funding is being disbursed by BDUK and is, to a large extent, being matched by local authorities.
  • Rural Community Broadband Fund—A £20million joint fund between the RDPE and BDUK that exists to help rural communities in the last 10% get access to superfast broadband. Communities have to bid for funds and provide matched funding themselves.

The Government also recommends that local authorities should try to access support through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). European regulations do not permit ERDF to be used to fund major broadband infrastructure in 'Regional Employment and Competitiveness' programme areas. However, ERDF can be used to fund 'last mile' infrastructure to allow connectivity to broadband networks for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). A number of local authorities have successfully bid for ERDF funding, Cornwall, for example, received over £50m between 2007-13.[54]

38.  In addition to the above, starting in April 2015, the BBC will pay the Department of Culture, Media and Sport £12.5m a month for two years. The Government have committed to using this money, totalling £300million, to further the roll-out of broadband to rural areas.[55]


39.  The public sector cannot afford to roll out superfast broadband universally. Indeed, there is some scepticism that the target of 90% of households by 2015 will be reached.[56] While we support the Government's efforts under the Rural Broadband Programme we have concerns that the chosen approach may increase the digital divide further. In pushing for increasing speeds the Government must not lose sight of those who currently lack access to broadband or whose access is below the 2Mbps threshold considered by the Government necessary for an adequate internet service.

40.  The Universal Service Commitment of 2Mbps is a big step forward for households and businesses currently with no or slow broadband. This part of the rural broadband programme is crucial and it should not be undermined by the ambition to roll out superfast broadband to those who already enjoy an adequate service. It must be the priority, particularly if there is a risk of funding not stretching as far as originally hoped. However, given the delays to the Programme, the Committee is unclear when those currently without any access may benefit. 2Mbps must also be the minimum speed that users receive during periods of peak demand, not a headline 'up to' figure that is rarely achievable. Not that we consider 2Mbps good enough; while it may be sufficient to stream video content for one device, households increasingly have a number of devices that compete for internet connectivity—this needs to be recognised in future plans to move beyond the USC.

41.  We heard evidence of communities wishing to put in broadband infrastructure that would support speeds of up to 10Mbps but because that speed does not qualify as superfast the Government would not provide support. This is not acceptable. The Government should do all it can to support those communities who wish to deliver broadband solutions that may differ from the Government's prescribed vision but will deliver greater benefits for the community. The push for superfast and the USC should not mean that more cost-effective schemes that offer increased speeds within the range of 2-24Mbps for the hardest to reach communities miss out on vital support. As part of the 2Mbps roll-out, if communities wish to put in place an alternative scheme that offers better broadband than the USC would offer then they should receive every encouragement and support from Government to do this—including any funding originally intended to help those communities meet the USC.

42.  Too often consumers are promised speeds by broadband providers that they have no hope of receiving. According to Ofcom the average advertised speed in the UK in May 2011 was 15Mbps, some 8.2Mbps higher than the average actual speed of just 6.8Mbps. As the Fibre to the Home Council Europe made clear in an open letter "Retailers would not be able to charge shoppers for items that were only half full yet broadband firms can advertise download speeds their customers may never be able to reach."[57] It would be unfortunate for the Government to be guilty of this behaviour. As part of the Rural Broadband Programme local authorities should give an honest assessment of the average speeds residents can expect to receive once the roll-out is complete. To do otherwise risks disenfranchising the rural communities the programme is set up to help.

Upload speeds and capacity

43.  The focus of the Government's Rural Broadband Programme is to improve the download speed available for residents and businesses in rural areas but the other side of this equation is just as important. As Dr Adam Marshall from the British Chambers of Commerce told us:

The Government's target only refers to download speeds. A lot of rural businesses are creative businesses, and it is the ability to get information up the pipe and to clients anywhere in the world that is just as important as bringing information down the pipe and into your farmhouse, hamlet or wherever else it might be that you are doing business. It is simply not good enough if you cannot get your intellectual property and your product or service out to the world and export it. The Chambers of Commerce overwhelmingly spend most of their time helping businesses to export, and that frustration comes to the fore over and over again.[58]

In its drive to improve download speeds to meet the headline targets of 2Mbps and 24Mbps the Government must not lose sight of the other direction of travel. To have the positive impact on rural businesses and the rural economy which the Government desires, the new infrastructure must deliver effective upload speeds and capacity. The USC should include a minimum upload speed target set at a level that meets the needs of SMEs and consumers. The Government-funded infrastructure must also have the capacity to allow such a speed to be achievable at times of peak demand.

Coverage and demand

44.  The original announcement of the roll-out of broadband to rural communities included the commitment that everyone would have access to a minimum of 2Mbps and 90% would have access to 24Mbps superfast broadband. In response to the House of Lords Communications Committee's report on broadband[59] the Government restated the universal ambition as being "virtually every household". This may simply be a clarification rather than a downgrade in ambition, as the Minister told us "not every household has electricity and not every household has some of the services that people take for granted".[60] On 27 June 2013, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury announced that on current plans roll out of superfast broadband would reach "nearly" 90% of households. In response to this Report the Government should set out how many households and businesses are not going to be covered by the roll-out of 2Mbps broadband under the Rural Broadband Programme, and the reasons for this.

45.  Take up of superfast broadband was initially slow. In 2010 more than 60% of households had access to superfast broadband but only 8% had signed up for it. Changes in consumer behaviour with increasing use of bandwidth-heavy content such as video streaming and an increase in the number of devices per household has seen take up rise. In November 2012, 13% of residential broadband connections were superfast.

46.  In order to speed up the provision of superfast broadband coverage people need to demonstrate that there is real demand for it. There are examples across the country where communities have successfully campaigned for better broadband. In Oxfordshire a community challenged the big ISPs' assumptions that it was not a commercially viable proposition for the roll-out of superfast broadband. According to the Chair of Islip parish council, "We spoke to BT about how we could boost their business case to bring fibre to the cabinet serving the village ... They worked out what the extra cost would be, and we have raised the funds ourselves to make up the gap in the economics."[61] The actions of communities like Islip demonstrate that exclusion from the roll-out of a superfast broadband programme is not an insurmountable barrier.[62] Rural communities should not be passive in their desire for superfast broadband. Indeed, evidence suggests that the chances of receiving superfast broadband increases if a community can put forward a business case to the provider or local authority. The Government should use organisations such as ACRE and the Rural and Farming Networks to make rural communities aware of the options available to them.


47.  The roll-out of broadband under the Rural Broadband Programme has not been without difficulties. From the outset progress was slow and bogged down in getting state aid clearance from the European Commission. Following several meetings between the Commission and the UK, and requests for deadline extensions—it took the UK until 5 October to provide answers to the Commission's 29 February 2012 request for information—state aid clearance was finally obtained on 20 November 2012.[63] It is disappointing the process took as long as it did, but getting state aid clearance is an achievement the DCMS should be proud of.

48.  The tendering process designed by BDUK aimed to encourage competition with BT, who already own a national telecoms network and service infrastructure, but it instead attracted considerable criticism from companies over difficulties that new entrants had in competing with the scale of BT. As a result of the tendering process only two companies, Fujitsu and BT, were given permission to bid for funds from the programme. To date BT has won all of the contracts under the programme and Fujitsu has now effectively withdrawn from the process leaving BT without any competition. A spokesman from Fujitsu said, "Various conditions surrounding the BDUK process, which we have discussed with the DCMS, effectively rule Fujitsu out of the competition for new areas."[64]

49.  We should be proud that a British company has the experience and expertise to facilitate the roll-out of the broadband on the scale required by the Rural Broadband Programme. We also welcome the news that BT seeks to employ a further 1,000 engineers including 400 apprentices as part of its efforts to roll out broadband to rural areas. However, a procurement process involving contracts worth over a billion pounds needs to be competitive. A process in which only one applicant applies for and wins all of the work clearly failed this test.

50.  In October 2012 BT was accused of inflating its prices when a document compiled by a consultant working for the DCMS was leaked to local authorities and subsequently detailed on a blog. [65] BT strenuously denied the accusation but the row led critics to call for more transparency in the bidding process. According to Andrew Ferguson, editor of broadband news site ThinkBroadband,

The ability to negotiate individually with the various local authorities does mean that BT can adjust costs, the question no-one can answer without months of analysis and access to material not in the public domain is whether the cost variations are justified.[66]

51.  As Malcolm Corbett, Chief Executive of INCA, expressed the position to us, "If you only have one competitor—as a cabinet member from one local authority said to me, he would not spend £40 million on a road scheme with just one competitor in the process. He would want to see more competition than that, and I think we all would like to see that."[67] On 5 July 2013 the National Audit Office published its review of the Rural Broadband Programme. On value for money the NAO noted, "The Department does not have strong assurance that costs, take-up assumptions and the level of contingency in supplier bids are reasonable." The NAO recommended that the Department seek "further information in bid responses on cost drivers, unit costs and reasons for cost variations to enable 'should cost' models to be applied".[68]

52.  Ensuring that local authorities receive value for money is a crucial part of BDUK's role and is essential if taxpayers are to get the greatest possible return from their investment. Without being able to share information between them, local authorities must rely on advice from BDUK. BDUK and Ofcom should consider requiring BT, where it is in receipt of state aid, to disclose its costs in a way that permits comparison across contracts. Without such transparency it is difficult to see how value for money can be guaranteed, particularly now that the only competitor to BT has effectively ruled itself out of the bidding process.


53.  The Government's decision to tackle the lack of adequate broadband in rural areas is very welcome but even within this policy the rural penalty is obvious. While residents in urban areas have superfast broadband infrastructure rolled out at no cost to themselves this is far from the case in the most rural parts of the country. The Government has set aside just £20m to further the provision of superfast broadband in the 10% of communities which are hardest to reach—out of a total pot of £540m. The £20 million comprises £10m from the RDPE and £10m from the Rural Broadband Programme and is available under the auspices of the Rural Communities Broadband Fund (RCBF). In order to access funding from the RCBF, rural communities must first provide the upfront funding themselves, or as the Applicant's Handbook states "you will need to spend first—and then claim later. You will therefore need to make arrangements to pay for all works up front, meaning that you will need some reserve funds or other means to 'bank roll' the project."[69] So not only is less than 2% of government spending for rural broadband being allocated to rolling out superfast to the most rural 10% of the country but it is only available if communities contribute up to half the funding projects require and more than that at the outset. Rural communities are paying for what their urban counterparts receive for free. This does not strike us as a deal that is fair for rural communities.

54.  The process for applying for funding from the RCBF does not appear devised for small, community-based organisations. Cumbria Council told us that

you have to understand state aid issues and procurement. You have to be able to cash flow: you talk in six figure numbers. When you are trying to say, "Can you as a small organisation cash flow?" It has been very difficult. Some of our communities are war­weary in trying to access the funding. That is problematic. We have others who have very robust local partnerships in place and know how they are going to deliver programmes, but I would suggest it has not been devised for communities.[70]

55.  There have been three rounds of funding from the RCBF so far with the window for the most recent round of applications closing on 17 June. For the third round we expect the RCPU to have acted on criticisms from the previous rounds. It is encouraging that there was the flexibility to extend the window for applications and that Defra is now also offering grant payments in excess of 50% of the project costs but it remains disappointing that payment under the Rural Community Broadband Fund is available solely on evidence of past expenditure. The grant should be there to help communities to roll out broadband infrastructure, not just a means of recovering some of the costs afterwards.

56.  Currently the RCBF is the only way the Government will provide support to the 10% most rural areas to help them get superfast broadband. Despite the criticisms of the application process the evidence we received on the usefulness of the Fund was positive. For example, Malcolm Corbett from INCA, suggested "it is pointing the way to finding approaches that can deliver very high-capacity services in deeply rural areas."[71]

57.  The Fund was originally limited to applications that involved the roll-out of fibre-optic broadband because a criteria of state aid set down by the European Commission meant that the Government could only support initiatives that would help the UK reach the Commission's target of everyone having access to 30Mbps broadband by 2020—broadband via fibre-optic cables are the principal means of achieving such a speed. However, laying fibre-optic cables is an expensive and complicated method for very rural areas. Anyone wishing to receive support for installing satellite or wireless broadband solutions was excluded from applying to the RCBF even if they were the best suited solutions for their area. The House of Lords Communications Committee reported how the superfast target speed prevented one remote upland community from bidding for support to provide a 15Mbps solution, without which they now must rely on 2Mbps.[72] Sara Eppel, Head of the RCPU told us that the Commission has now recognised the benefits of other technologies:

the European Commission required us to do it with fibre optic, but they have now come back recently and said that we can look at wireless as a transition technology. This is because they recognise that in certain topographies and distance from fibre optic, actually we are going to end up with no broadband speed increase, or at very basic levels. So they are allowing us to use wireless broadband for some of our really final 10% areas.[73]

We welcome the Commission's change of heart in this area and recognise the efforts the Government have put in to achieve this.

58.  Communities are only eligible for funding if they can prove they are in the 10% hardest to reach area as set out by their local authority's Local Broadband Plan. This should become easier now most local authorities have had their broadband plans approved. We agree with John Moore, Chief Executive of NYNET, that "somebody needs to look at the whole map" and take account of the areas between those covered by BT and the small areas covered by RCBF and other schemes.[74]

59.  The Rural Community Broadband Fund is an important lever in the roll-out of superfast broadband to the hardest to reach 10%. It is therefore disappointing that so little money, less than 2% of government's overall funding for broadband, has been made available to encourage and support innovative community-led solutions in these rural areas. Defra should expand the scope of the RCBF when the next round of RDPE funding is available.

Beyond 2015

60.  On 27 June 2013, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury announced the Government's plans for the delivery of rural broadband post 2015:

The Spending Round announces a further £250 million investment, locally match-funded, to extend superfast broadband provision from current coverage plans so that 95 per cent of UK premises will have access to superfast broadband by 2017. The Government will work with industry to develop the more innovative fixed, wireless and mobile broadband solutions required to move to at least 99 per cent superfast broadband by 2018.[75]

61.  After the announcement the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport confirmed that the £250 million would be drawn from the previously announced £300 million coming from the BBC and that what happens to the remaining £50 million is still to be decided.[76] Five per cent means an extra 1.4 million premises will have access to fixed superfast broadband but, we question the extent to which financially constrained local authorities will be able to contribute to the project. It is unclear whether the funding will result in local authorities renegotiating existing contracts with BT or whether there will be another round of bidding. The Government have known about the money coming from the BBC for some time. It would therefore be disappointing if its provision caused further delay to work starting.

62.  Furthermore, the Government's plans appear to lack vision. The Government's objective to have the best broadband network in Europe by 2015, was based primarily on Fibre-to-the-Cabinet technology, but by 2023, without further work, this would leave the UK behind other countries.[77] Ofcom have already indicated that the UK's Universal Service Commitment of 2Mbps is too slow and will need to be raised in the future.[78] This short-term view contrasts poorly with countries such as France and Australia who have announced and embarked respectively on multi-billion pound projects to roll out future-proofed high-speed broadband networks based primarily on fibre-to-the-home technology.[79] As the British Chambers of Commerce told us:

Dr Marshall: I do not believe that the ambition, however, is strong enough in terms of the Government's broadband strategy, or any UK Government's broadband strategy. One of the things on our infrastructure more generally that businesses are concerned about is short-termism of policy initiatives and the lack of a several-decades-long view, whether it is transport networks or broadband networks etc ... our strategy is not adequate.[80]

63.  The broadband news site ThinkBroadband points out that

Given that it has taken from 2010 till the very end of 2012 for the first BDUK cabinet to be deployed, the time frame is clear that if we wait until all the BDUK and RCBF projects complete there will be a two or three year period of political debate with little change in physical delivery of broadband.[81]

The Government needs a longer terms broadband strategy. Plans to deploy Fibre to the Home technology need to be drawn up and actively considered now.

64.  We welcome the Government's commitment to roll out superfast broadband to 95% of UK premises but we question whether using matched-funding under the BDUK model is the best means of achieving this objective. The Government should look instead to how it can use the money to support and lever community and private sector investment. Myriad independent projects already exist outside the BDUK and BT roll out process, B4RN, WiSpire and Gigaclear to name just a few. One of the biggest challenges facing smaller broadband companies is the ability to meet up-front costs—this can mean that potential customers are required to provide up-front financial support or can be charged an above-market rate to connect to the service. This is where the funding from the BBC can have an impact. The Rural Community Broadband Fund demonstrates that applying public sector funding to support community and private sector projects can bring tangible results. Malcolm Corbett told us that:

it is a very useful little scheme as it stands, and I think there are some lessons we can draw from that for the [...] additional £300 million that could be made available. We can think about ways of making that money go an awful lot further than it otherwise would if we think of it in terms of investment and think how we can attract additional private and community sector capital into the process, and that is what I think we should be doing.[82]

65.  The Government should draw on lessons from the Rural Community Broadband Fund and use the funding from the BBC as a lever to encourage private and community sector capital and expertise. As a pre-requisite, the Government must publish details showing precisely what areas will be covered by BT and when, in order to encourage alternative providers to fill in the gaps and prevent bodies in receipt of public money competing with each other. We have already stated our belief that the RCBF should provide up-front support to projects and this should also be the case in the application of the funding from the BBC.  

Mobile Infrastructure Project

66.  The Government has committed £150 million in capital expenditure through the Mobile Infrastructure Project to improve mobile coverage where existing coverage is poor or non-existent. The aim of the project is to address 60,000 of the 80,000 'not-spots' in voice and basic data (text messages). Mobile data is not included but the infrastructure can be upgraded to do this.[83] Together with rolling out broadband, it is expected that improving mobile phone coverage will help support growth in the rural economy.

67.  Existing agreements with mobile network operators contained obligations to cover 90% of the UK population with 2G services (voice and text)—these obligations were met a number of years ago.[84] This has left parts of the UK without any mobile coverage, predominantly in rural areas where there is no commercial case for mobile network operators to provide their services. Through the Mobile Infrastructure Project the Government intends to remedy this issue by funding the construction of mobile infrastructure and making it available to all four mobile network operators. Announcing the scheme at the Conservative Party Conference in 2011 the Chancellor said, "We are today extending mobile phone coverage for up to six million people"[85]. By the time of the 2012 Budget six months later, the scope of scheme had been scaled back to extending coverage "to 60,000 rural homes and along at least ten key roads by 2015" as state aid rules meant the funding could only be used in those areas without a signal from any of the four mobile operators.[86] The Minister admitted to us that this was "a sizable drop".[87]

Table 1: Mobile coverage in the United Kingdom[88]
Geographic coverage Premises coverage Geographic coverage Premises coverage
No signal from any operator Signal from all operators No signal from any operator Signal from all operators No signal from any operator Signal from all operators No signal from any operator Signal from all operators
England4.2% 72.8%0.2% 94.6%6.0% 31.3%0.3% 80.5%
Scotland27.5% 38.0%0.8% 91.6%50.8% 5.2%3.0% 68.0%
Northern Ireland8.5% 58.8%1.3% 88.0%49.4% 10.5%11.7% 55.9%
Wales14.3% 49.2%0.8% 84.1%22.1% 9.8%2.4% 52.4%
UK12.8% 58.8%0.3% 93.6%24.3% 19.9%09.% 77.3%

68.  There is a marked difference between the geographical coverage of mobile networks and the proportion of premises covered as operators have focused their efforts on areas where most consumers are located. Harry Cotterell from CLA questioned whether using number of premises was the most appropriate target as most premises will already have a landline:

It must be area covered, because in our businesses people are remote. They may be near home, but they may be two, three or four miles away. They may be at market and that can be remote and it is terribly difficult, if you are not utilising area as a measurement, to get a true reflection of what is being delivered.[89]

Both Mr Cotterell and Mr Dunn from the Tenant Farmers Association raised the benefits that mobile phone coverage could bring to those working in the countryside, not only due to the increased number of calls that farmers are expected to take during the day but also the health and safety aspect on lone working—for people "out there working by themselves [...] their lifeline effectively is a mobile phone."[90]

69.  On 13 May 2013 the Government announced that it had appointed communication infrastructure company Arqiva to deliver the project and that all four mobile network operators had signed up to the scheme. Originally, businesses and consumers were told they would start to benefit from improved mobile coverage from early 2013 and roll out would be completed in 2015 but the timetable has slipped owing to the need to get state aid clearance and negotiations with the mobile network companies being slightly more protracted than initially hoped. Cumbria is set to be the first area to benefit from the project with seven new masts by March 2015 and a further 17 to follow after that.[91]

70.  The lack of mobile coverage in large parts of rural Britain is unacceptable and we welcome the Government's commitment to go some way to addressing this problem through the Mobile Infrastructure Project, although it is disappointing that the ambition of the scheme has been scaled back from that originally announced. We are concerned that in focusing on reducing the number of premises in 'not-spots', which may already have landline access, large parts of the countryside and those who work in it may still be left without access to mobile technology. The Government must set out what improvement in geographical coverage the Government foresees as a result of the £150 million initiative.

71.  We urge communities and local authorities to embrace plans to roll out mobile infrastructure and work proactively with the delivery body through the planning process. At the same time, the delivery body must give due consideration to the value of the natural beauty of the rural landscapes in which it will be installing the infrastructure.

72.  The Government's ambitions will not be realised if the mobile network operators delay occupation of the new infrastructure. We expect the mobile network operators to occupy the new infrastructure as soon as is possible. The Government must report regularly on occupation rates once the infrastructure is in place.

46   Defra, Statistical Digest of Rural England 2013, January 2013 Back

47   Ev w53 [BT Group Plc] Back

48   Federation of Small Businesses, The missing links: revitalising our rural economy, 21 May 2012 Back

49   DCMS press release, Next phase of superfast broadband plans announced, 6 December 2012 Back

50   DCMS press release, Culture Secretary launches rural broadband projects to kick start revolution in digital economy, 8 June 2010  Back

51   DCMS press release, Government aims for superfast broadband to reach 90 per cent of homes and businesses, 12 May 2011 Back

52   Ofcom, Communications Infrastructure Report 2011 - Fixed broadband data, July 2011 Back

53   May 2013 figures from Ofcom for 2Mbps coverage show a jump to 95% but it is worth noting that the methodology for collecting the data has changed. Previously a postcode area was judged to have broadband at less than 2Mbps if one property in the area was below the line. An average speed for the area is now used. Back

54   Superfast Cornwall press release, Super-fast fibre broadband 'goes live' in North Cornwall, 2 November 2012  Back

55   BBC Ariel magazine, BBC signs agreement to pay £300 million for broadband roll out, 8 August 2012  Back

56   BT has already said that it won't complete much of its work until the end of 2016. The NAO Report, The Rural Broadband Programme, states that DCMS now forecast the programme to complete its roll out 22 months later than planned. Only nine out of 44 local projects are expected to reach their original target of providing 90 per cent superfast coverage by May 2015. On 27 June the Chief Secretary to the Treasury downgraded the Rural Broadband Programme's superfast coverage to "around" 90% of UK households. Back

57, FTTH Council Europe demands clearer information on broadband speeds, 24 January 2013 Back

58   Q 9 Back

59   Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Government response to the House of Lords Communications Select Committee Report, "Broadband for all-an alternative vision", Cmd 8457, October 2012 Back

60   Q 160 Back

61   Computer Weekly, Islip puts up cash for fibre broadband, 15 January 2013  Back

62   INCA's 'Beyond Broadband' paper sets out some of steps rural communities can take to get the broadband networks they want. It is available at Back

63   European Commission, State aid SA.33671 (2012/N)-United Kingdom: National Broadband scheme for the UK-Broadband Delivery UK, C(2012) 8223 final, 20 November 2012 Back

64   Computer Weekly, Fujitsu pulls out of BDUK, 18 March 2013 Back

65   BBC News Online, Rural Broadband gets green light from Europe, 10 October 2012 Back

66   Ibid. Back

67   Q 139 Back

68   National Audit Office, The Rural Broadband Programme, HC 535 Back

69   Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) and Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF), Applicant's Handbook-Expression of Interest round two Back

70   Q 44 Back

71   Q 140 Back

72   House of Lords Select Committee on Communications, First Report of Session 2012-13, Broadband for all-an alternative vision, , HL 41  Back

73   Q 432 Back

74   Q 141 Back

75   HM Treasury, Investing in Britain's future, Cm 8669 Back

76, Gov Pledge 95% of UK to Get Fixed Superfast Broadband by 2017, 27 June 0213 Back

77   There are two main options for deployment of fibre in the roll-out of broadband infrastructure. Under Fibre to the Premises (FTTP), also referred to as Fibre to the Home (FTTH), each customer has a fibre link direct to their premises providing the highest data rates and reliability. Under Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) fibre runs from the exchange to street cabinets, but because existing copper is used for the final link into the home data rates are more limited. Back

78, Ofcom warns government's 2Mbit's broadband target is too slow, 11 January 2013; Ofcom, Infrastructure Report-2012 update, 16 November 2012  Back

79   France has announced a €20 billion scheme to build a high speed broadband network, Australia have embarked on a £27 billion programme to roll out Fibre to the Home see Back

80   Q 9 Back

81, Has Ofcom been studying our polls?, 11 January 2013  Back

82   Q 141; For example, in Northumberland the council led i-Northumberland programme is offering ISPs financial support to deploy broadband services in hard to reach communities. Loans awarded under the scheme will be repayable over three years, allowing providers to offset the otherwise prohibitively high cost of installations in remote locations. Back

83   A total not spot is defined as a 200m2 grid square where the projected RSSI threshold for all operators is less than -86dBm. Lower coverage is typically in less densely populated areas. Source: Ofcom, Infrastructure Report-2012 update, 16 November 2012 Back

84   In addition, operators of 3G services have been incentivised to increase 3G coverage to 90% in return for an indefinite licence term. However, this level still falls short of existing 2G coverage and operators may make use of existing infrastructure to extend their 3G coverage rather than through going to areas where no coverage exists. See European Commission, State aid SA.35060 (2012/N)-United Kingdom: Mobile Infrastructure Project, C(2012) 8681 final, 5 December 2012  Back

85   Speech by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the 2012 Conservative Party Conference  Back

86   HM Treasury, Budget 2012, HC 1853  Back

87   Q 193 Back

88   Ofcom, Infrastructure Report-2012 Update, 16 November 2012 Back

89   Q 109 Back

90   Q 109 Back

91, Plan to banish Cumbrian mobile signal blackspots, 21 June 2013  Back

previous page contents next page

© Parliamentary copyright 2013
Prepared 24 July 2013