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United Kingdom Will Not Hit National Broadband Targets for Universal Access

100% Access to "Fast" Broadband by 2015; 90% Access to "Superfast"

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The United Kingdom's broad universal broadband goals will not be achieved. That is the opinion of Karin Ahl, president of the Fibre To The Home (FTTH) Council Europe, a non-profit organization chartered to speed up the deployment of fiber broadband networks.

The United Kingdom's equivalent of the United State's National Broadband Plan is called the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) project. The goals of BDUK include improving the broadband infrastructure in the country to provide universal broadband access with speeds of at least 2 Mbps to all the premises in the country. In addition to universal broadband access for all UK citizens, providing "next-generation broadband technology" to at least 90% of the country by 2015 is another stated goal of the plan.

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When the national broadband strategy was announced by the UK government in 2010, the Minister for Digital Britain, Stephen Timms, emphasized the tremendous economic benefits of broadband. Timms said that ensuring these broadband targets were met were essential to the growth and well being of the UK’s economy: “Taking advantage of new technologies like next generation broadband is vital to the growth of the UK’s economy and it’s important that all homes and businesses can access the opportunities faster speeds bring.”

Timms continued: “This report makes clear that without public intervention, some rural areas and less well off communities will be left behind and unable to reap the economic, health and education benefits superfast broadband offers. Our proposed £1 billion Next Generation Fund will help bring the benefits of super fast broadband to more communities. We do not want to risk the digital gap widening, which is why we have put a team of experts in place to ensure further investment is targeted at those people without adequate access.”

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According to FTTH Council Europe, the UK is behind the rest of Europe in its implementation of fiber broadband connections because the government and industry “don’t know the need for it” and have not set targets high enough to achieve the broad benefits which broadband brings.

There are two principal types of fiber broadband networks defined in England. One is called fiber to the cabinet (FTTC), which is comparable to very high bit rate digital subscriber lines (VDSL) in the US. Fiber to the home (FTTH)is analogous to the FTTH networks in the US. The UK currently has a limited number of fiber connections, and government and broadband providers have been focused on delivering FTTC - which is one of the criticisms levied by Ahl and FTTH Council Europe.

According to Ahl:

“VDSL or FTTC is just a way of putting existing copper networks into use, but they are on their last legs. They work today, but are not for the future as people are starting to increase their use of capacity."

Referring to the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) project, Ahl continued:

“There was not a lot of incentive to deploy fibre in the UK; a few years ago, the objective was 2Mbit/s, but at the same time in Korea they were offering 2Gbit/s of speed.”

Despite criticism from FTTH Council Eurpope, the government remains confident that the national broadband goals will be met. More than one-third of the country lacks high-speed access, which includes many rural communities

United Kingdom Government Confident of Meeting Broadband Goals

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