Now that the big headlines generated by last week’s Budget have died down, it’s time to take a closer look at some of the details. One titbit that interested me was the focus on broadband…
George Osborne announced that 10 cities are to become ‘super-connected’ with ultra-fast broadband and wi-fi as part of a £100 million investment.
My first thought was, what on earth is ultra-fast broadband? Apparently it will bring speeds up to 300Mbps compared to mere 100Mbps superfast speeds.
So who are these lucky cities? Well residents of Belfast, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, London, Manchester and Newcastle can rest safe in the knowledge that the broadband gods are looking fondly on them.
This decision is part of the government’s ‘reforms to support growth’, aimed at putting the UK on a path of sustainable, long-term growth. To this end it’s clearly aimed at making these cities attractive to businesses as well as consumers.
In his speech the Chancellor pointed out that we need to compete with countries like Korea and Singapore. In these countries, it’s not unheard of for fibre networks to offer speeds of up to 1Gbps for all residents.
What about people outside of these cities?
However, is the government’s planned investment unfair to those who live outside of these cities? Despite the UK’s biggest cities already having pretty good broadband coverage anyway, this will further widen the digital divide between these cities and the rest of the country.
Then again, although it feels a bit unfair to choose just 10 places to pump money into, the Chancellor was quick to point out that this is supposed to complement the government’s existing plans to bring superfast broadband to 90% of the country by 2015.
A special mention should go to MP Simon Kirby, who argued for smaller towns to get some of this investment too. As MP for Brighton Kempton, his voice helped towards £50 million being allocated to smaller cities for the same purpose.
Don’t forget about less populated areas
After a little more thought, I’m glad the government is recognising the importance of broadband for the economic future of the UK. And it’s certainly no bad thing to improve our speeds so that we can compete with other countries.
I would, however, like to make a small plea – although we need to make broadband investments to attract big business into our cities, this should not filter money away from helping those in less populated areas.
Ultra-fast broadband might be important for the economy, but a decent minimum speed is important for everyone. The former should not come at expense of the latter.