Fresh government promise for super-fast broadband
Everyone in the UK should have access to super-fast broadband from 2015, irrespective of whether they live in a city, or more remote rural areas, according to a fresh promise from the government's culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt.
The private sector will be responsible for delivering broadband to two-thirds of the country, but public funds will be called on to improve services to the remaining third (which will mainly be rural areas).
To date internet service providers have claimed that it hasn't been economically viable to deliver better broadband to areas with such low populations.
Announcing the plans, Jeremy Hunt confirmed that the government has set aside £830 million to help it achieve this bold target and stated that by 2015 the UK should have Europe's best broadband network.
Previously the Labour government had pledged that everyone should have minimum speeds by 2012 but the government is now trying to roll the two tasks - providing superfast broadband and ensuring that no part of the UK is excluded - together.
As part of this, the government has pledged to create 'digital hubs' in every community. Internet service providers and the communities themselves would then be expected to extend the new networks out to individual homes.
£50 million of the government spend will go towards trials in the UK's most remote areas.
Should the government achieve its target, superfast broadband would have a huge impact on the economy. The Federation of Small Business says it would add £18 billion to GDP and create 60,000 jobs. NESTA (the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts) puts that figure even higher at 600,000.
However, just what constitutes superfast broadband remains to be seen. Labour had wanted to guarantee a somewhat slow two megabits per second but the new coalition government refuses to be drawn on an exact figure.
The industry accepted definition of 'superfast' broadband is 24 mbps, but according to a recent study from Ofcom, less than 1% of UK homes can boast of such speeds today. By comparison, Korea is aiming for broadband speeds of one gigabit per second by 2012 - a speed that would allow you to download a two-hour film in 12 seconds.
The success of the government plans will also rely heavily on willingness from private companies and community groups.
Read our article: Why isn't the broadband regulator protecting consumers?
Commenting on the announcement, Malcolm Corbett, CEO of the Independent Networks Cooperative Association said: "The task of getting to the best superfast network in Europe is huge and beyond the resources available to the government, BT and Virgin Media.
"It needs a genuinely collective effort involving private sector, local authorities and communities. To borrow one of David Cameron's favourite phrases - we need big society broadband."
2015 will also seem like a long way off to the many thousands of households across the UK who are paying over the odds for a slow and unreliable service.
Ernest Doku, communications expert at Uswitch.com said: "Currently there is a vast disconnect between the broadband speeds that customers pay for and the speed that they receive.
"Our own research shows that six million homes pay for an 8Mb service, but only two million actually receive it. Today's move takes us one step closer to making high speed broadband an affordable reality for consumers."
Many of you have also got in touch with us to complain about your broadband problems as part of our Beat the broadbandits campaign. But you don't have to suffer in silence - check out our guide and find out some of the steps you can take to banish your broadband blues.
You can also find out just how fast your broadband connection is at sites including broadbandspeedchecker.co.uk and speedtest.net.
The total money value of all the finished goods and services produced in an economy in one year. It includes all consumer and government consumption, government spending and borrowing, investments and exports (minus imports) and is taken as a guide to a nation’s economic health and financial well being. However, some economists feel GDP is inaccurate because it fails to measure the changes in a nation's standard of living, unpaid labour, savings and inflationary price changes (such as housing booms and stockmarket increases).