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Broadband UK: double funding and staff needed to reach all of UK

The UK’s broadband delivery agency is understaffed and underfunded to make sure superfast connections are properly rolled out to the whole of the UK.

Fibre telegraph pole by dsearls/FlickrBroadband Delivery UK needs more stuff and at least double the present funding to make sure superfast broadband reaches the ‘final third’ of the UK, MP Chi Onwurah told the House of Lords.

Speaking to the Lords’ communications committee, Onwurah said Broadband Deliver UK has just 10 people assessing and advising local authorities on their broadband plans.

Instead, local authorities are turning to expensive consultants who may not give the best value for money.

She said: “We need something like double the current funding to ensure that superfast broadband reaches the final third.

“Local authorities are supposed to match the funding from BDUK, but they are being cut to the bone so it’s unlikely that they can do that.

“BDUK has 10 people working on the deployment of superfast broadband. There are more than 50 local authorities preparing broadband delivery plans, and that’s not enough people.”

Onwurah is the former head of telecoms technology at Ofcom, and shadow minister for business, innovation and skills for Labour.

This week saw 11 local authorities criticised by culture secretary Jeremy Hunt for failing to hand in their broadband delivery plans.

Essex, East Riding, the Black Country, Greater Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle, Portsmouth, Southampton and Telford & Wrekin have yet to submit their plans.

Portsmouth, Southampton and Telford & Wrekin face delays because they were involved in joint projects with other authorities but have now withdrawn.

But Richard Brown, CEO of rural broadband consultancy Wispa, said the lack of resources for UK broadband is a symptom of a misguided government strategy.

He’s proposing a minimum universal speed of 100Mbps by incentivising small, innovative companies through tax breaks and ‘prize’ payments to build out from BT’s existing infrastructure.

Brown said: “Our government genuinely believe that speed requirements are ‘over egged’ and we even heard yesterday in the House of Lords, evidence the suggestion that we could sweat the copper until 2015 and then do something else then.

“It’ll be too late. It’s almost too late now. Until something like our package as laid out by us is implemented, then Britain will have no future as a First Economy. We’ll watch lucrative organisations move overseas to where data can be moved in the volume that is required.”

Image: dsearls/Flickr

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