U.K. Broadband Rollout “Woefully Behind” While Rural Areas Are Left Out

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson made an “ambitious” pledge in 2019 to “turbo-charge” the nation through a “broadband revolution,” but the effort has been set back by a “litany of failures,” reported ZDNet. Johnson allocated $6.8 billion and promised that by 2025, U.K. residents would have access to full-fiber broadband services. But now, the pledge is categorized as “unachievable.”

According to ZDNet, in October 2020, the UK’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), responsible for monitoring and investigating government spending, called Johnson’s 2025 goal “ludicrously unrealistic.” On Friday, the PAC released a report blaming the U.K. Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) for failing to make progress in rolling out gigabit connectivity and chiding the government for making only 25 percent of the $6.8 billion funds readily available.

The government has revised its 2025 goal to provide “at least 85 percent coverage,” but the PAC claims that more needs to be done now to be on track to achieving that goal. The PAC also noted that rural areas are not included in the plan, potentially leaving out 20 percent of the U.K.’s population. 

The PAC recommends the government publish a clear timeline to achieve milestones, including finding solutions to barriers, such as those in rural areas. The committee also suggests that DCMS tackle monopolies in underserved regions to curtail consumers from being overcharged. 

“For the foreseeable future, even more of our lives is moving online, whether we like it or not,” commented Meg Hillier MP, Chair of PAC. “[The] government cannot allow digital inequality to continue to compound and exacerbate the economic inequality that has been so harshly exposed in the COVID-19 pandemic. It needs to be clear about timelines in each area so that businesses and individuals can plan for their digital future.”

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