1 Introduction |
1. The Government plan to "achieve transformation
in broadband in the UK by 2017".
This transformation includes basic broadband at a speed of 2 Megabits
per second (Mbps) for all by 2016 and access to superfast broadband
at a speed of 24 Mbps for 95% of the UK by 2017. This plan is
co-ordinated by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) part of the Department
for Culture, Media and Sport and is split into three phases: phase
one aims to provide superfast broadband to 90% of premises in
the UK by 2016; phase two seeks to extend superfast broadband
coverage to 95% of premises by 2017; and phase three will test
options to rollout superfast beyond the 95%. Phase one is reaching
its final stages; phase two will be launched in 2016.
2. The rollout plans are delivered through 44 local
bodies. In England each local authority has been allocated funding
and each county council or local enterprise partnership leads
broadband rollout in its area, draws up an effective delivery
plan and matches Government investment with European, and their
own or private funds. Funding has also been allocated to Scotland,
Wales and Northern Ireland.
BT are at the centre of the broadband rollout programme, having
won all phase one contracts from local councils to deliver the
project. Phase two contracts
are currently being discussed.
There is no indication that a rigorous evaluation of phase one
is planned before phase two begins.
3. The transformation of broadband in the UK runs
alongside a separate Government digital strategy to make Government
This will be rolled out across all Government departments and
each department is expected to have its own digital strategy plan.
4. We have been concerned that the Government's move
towards digital-by-default services is premature, and is based
on an incorrect assumption that delivery of basic broadband coverage
(2 Mbps) is complete and that adequate broadband coverage exists
to enable the public particularly in rural areas to use exclusively
online Government services.
5. The launch of a new online-only Common Agricultural
Policy (CAP) application process provides a timely example of
the Government's digital-by-default strategy. We invited
representatives from those charged with delivery of the broadband
programme and representatives from rural and farming interest
groups, to give evidence.
6. Over two evidence sessions, the Committee heard
from BT, the CLA, the Rural Payments Agency, the National Association
of Local Councils, the National Farmers Union, Tenant Farmers
Association, Broadband Delivery UK, the Cabinet Office and Defra.
We received 81 pieces of written evidence.
The written submissions and transcripts of two oral evidence sessions
are published on our website. We are grateful to all who provided
7. We have been
keen throughout this inquiry to make sure that enough focus is
placed on those who have no access to superfast broadband. There
is a risk in the current approach that improving service for those
who already have it will leave even further behind the 5% of premises
who have none. There is a risk of poor rural broadband availability
causing harm to farm businesses and the rural economy. It is essential
that those who are 'hardest-to-reach' are given priority.
1 Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 'Broadband Delivery UK,'
accessed 23 January 2015 Back
Fixed Broadband: Policy and Speeds 2014, Standard note
SN06643, House of Commons Library, December 2014 Back
Local Government Association (RBB 0090) para 2 Back
Shropshire and Marches Campaign for Better Broadband in Rural
Areas (RBB 0009) para 1 Back
Cabinet Office, 'Government Digital Strategy: December 2013,'
accessed 23 January 2015 Back
House of Commons Select Committee, 'Environment Food and Rural Affairs',
accessed 28 January 2015 Back