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George Osborne delivers Broadband Budget

Chancellor George Osborne today pledged he wanted Britain to lead the world in broadband speeds – and invested cash into creating 10 super-connected cities across the UK.

During his Budget 2012 speech in the House of Commons, Mr Osborne said:

“To be Europe’s technology center, we also need to have the best technology infrastructure. Two years ago we had some of the slowest broadband speeds in Europe.”

So his announcement this afternoon that millions of pounds of investment would be ploughed into superfast broadband and Wi-Fi in 10 of Britain’s biggest cities was designed to aid both businesses and the general user, enabling them to harness the best the internet can offer.

Superfast broadband is generally a connection running at 20Mbps or higher. The current average speed according to uSwitch is 3.6Mbps with superfast infrastructure capable of up to 100Mbps.

With more and more content consumed online, superfast broadband is key to delivering fast downloads and non-buffering streamed entertainment content for games consoles and internet-connected TVs, for example.

The Chancellor also announced plans to roll out stronger rural mobile broadband taking in areas which had previously been left unconnected and to boost speeds and signal strength along some of the countries main roads and routes.

Mr Osborne added:

“Today our plans will deliver some of the fastest [speeds], with 90% of the population having access to superfast broadband, and improved mobile phone coverage for rural areas and along key roads across the UK.”

The 10 cities to benefit are Belfast, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle and London.

Another pot of money – around £50 million – was made available to help a range of smaller cities nationwide.

It comes a week after Virgin Mobile was revealed as the provider of Wi-Fi access to London’s tube stations. More than 80 will be connected for passengers before the London Olympics 2012 with up to 120 in total logged on by the end of this year.

Today’s broadband announcement came alongside news that digital creative industries such as video games would now enjoy the same kind of tax breaks as their movie and TV equivalents.

This will allow games developers to run their businesses from Britain rather than moving them abroad to countries like Canada and America where they can do it more cost-effectively.

But there has been a mixed reaction to the plans, which hope to connect 1.7 million homes and 200,000 businesses to superfast lines by 2015. Both BT and Virgin Media already currently have their own roll out underway.

Julia Stent, director of telecoms at uSwitch.com, believes the first priority should be connecting those who are still living in the dial-up age.

She said:

“The government remains set on rolling out superfast broadband to 90% of the UK, bringing faster speeds to digitally isolated rural areas that suffer from such sluggish speeds and poor connectivity that it’s hardly worth having a broadband service at all.”

“But it was clear from the Budget that top of the broadband agenda for the government is the quest to become fastest in the world, and not just Europe.”

“Whilst funding earmarked for ultra fast broadband in 10 UK cities is both ambitious and heartening, and will undoubtedly benefit technology companies looking to develop and expand in the UK, the primary concern should be the provision of a quality service to rural areas before pursuing the title of fastest broadband in the world.”

“Although there are still broadband black spots and speed issues in some urban areas of the UK, we worry that the major towns and cities will speed ahead of the rest of the country in the premature quest to become fastest in the world.”

“Bringing an appreciable average speed to those in rural areas who have been forever languishing in the slow lane must be of equal importance.”

Dominic Baliszewski, of Broadbandchoices.co.uk agreed. He said:

“The creation of 10 “super-connected” cities is great news for UK businesses.”

“But today’s news is cold comfort for those living and working in the outlying rural regions, being left ever further behind in digital poverty. Businesses in these areas face a postcode lottery, frequently struggling because of an historical lack of investment in rural broadband services.”

He added:

“Progress to significantly improve the UK’s broadband infrastructure has been limited to date and our reliance on the internet for business and leisure has grown faster than our outdated networks can handle.”

“Only days ago a report from the Boston Consulting Group revealed that the UK has the most internet-dependent economy than any other G20 nation, highlighting the vital contribution the internet now makes to UK GDP; imagine what could be achieved if our broadband networks were even better.”

“If the UK is to ‘future-proof’ its broadband infrastructure, we should be aspiring to hyper-fast connection speeds of 1GB which would carry us through the next ten to fifteen years, rather than the next five.”

PluggedIn TIP

To check what your current broadband speed is, use a website such as speedtest.net or speed.io and always ensure your wireless router is placed high up and not surrounded by other items than can cause electronic interference such as cordless telephones. This can reduce your wireless efficiency and lower the speed.


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