Improving Broadband Contents


More than ever, people rely on fast and reliable broadband for work, entertainment and accessing goods and services. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport’s (the Department) Superfast Broadband Programme has helped to extend superfast broadband coverage to harder-to-reach areas over the past decade. More than 95% of UK premises can now access broadband speeds of at least 30 Mbps and, according to Ofcom, the country’s infrastructure has held up well to unprecedented internet demand during the covid-19 pandemic. But 1.6 million UK premises, mainly in rural areas, cannot yet access superfast speeds and, as the Department turns its attention to upgrading the UK’s broadband connectivity again, there is a risk that rural areas will be left even further behind.

After we took oral evidence from the Department on 9th November 2020, we felt it was clear that Government’s 2019 election pledge to deliver nationwide gigabit (1000Mbps) broadband connectivity by 2025 was unachievable. Since then the government has accepted that. On 25 November it published, alongside the November 2020 Spending Review, a revised target of at least 85% by 2025 but will seek to accelerate rollout to get as close to 100% as possible and has committed less than a quarter of the £5 billion funding needed for the Department’s programme to support roll-out to the hardest to reach 20% of premises. This is still a challenging target and increases the risk that the very hardest to reach premises will be struggling with slow broadband for many years to come. We are concerned that the Department has yet to make any meaningful progress in delivering the policy and legislative changes deemed essential by industry if it is to achieve rapid roll-out. It is still developing its £5 billion programme to subsidise roll-out to the hardest to reach 20% of the UK’s 31 million premises and could not tell us when it intends to deliver major milestones, such as the letting of contracts. We are increasingly concerned that those in rural areas may have to pay more, and may reach gigabit broadband speeds late. Given the impact of covid-19, the Department must do more to protect those with limited access to the internet. We remain unconvinced that, if and when rural users finally do get gigabit broadband, they will enjoy the same choice of service provider and the same protections as their urban counterparts.

Published: 8 January 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement