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Labour MPs question government’s superfast broadband target

Labour MPs have grilled culture secretary Maria Miller over the government’s superfast broadband targets. 

Shadow deputy prime minister Harriet Harman last week questioned whether or not the government would meet it’s touted deadline of superfast broadband for 90 per cent of the UK woud be hit:

“The Government [has] promised superfast broadband by the end of 2015, but there is growing concern that they will not meet that target. Can the Secretary of State assure the House that those concerns are wrong and that she is on track to meet the Government’s target of 90 per cent of premises getting superfast broadband by 2015?”

Miller rather sharply dodged the question, refusing to talk dates but rather focus on the work done:

“The difference between the right hon. and learned Lady and me is that she may put forward warm words, but this Government are actually putting forward practical interventions. Not only with our commitment to 2 megabits universally, but through our urban project and our rural broadband project, we are actually delivering for the people of this country. More than two thirds of premises now have access to superfast broadband…”

Labour MPs question government’s superfast broadband target
2Mbps for all and superfast broadband for 90 per cent – will the job be done by the end of 2015?

Read Recombu Digital’s report BT Broadband Rollout Updates

BT recently announced that it had connected 15 million UK premises to its superfast network and that it’s on track to havce 19 million connected by Spring 2014.

BT, which has been handed virtually all of the BDUK contracts, has however said that in places like South Gloucester and Wiltshire, work to get superfast broadband piped out won’t be done until March 2016.

Elsewhere, Nic Dakin Labour MP for Scunthorpe quizzed the secretary specifically on this issue, asking why contracts with delivery dates marked for 2016 are being signed.

Ed Vaizey jumped in but didn’t directly answer the question, instead referring to the Lincolnshire project which will see 94.5 per cent of residents getting superfast broadband instead of 90 per cent.

What’s not being made abundantly clear is when or if 90 per cent will be hit by 2015, regardless of how many extra homes and firms will be getting superfast. A BT spokesperson told us:

“Each BDUK contract is unique with the coverage targets and timeframes reflecting local circumstances. Many will be complete before 2015, whilst some will be complete afterwards. Many of them have coverage targets that are in excess of 90 per cent, so the end date should not be taken as an indicator of when 90 per cent itself will be achieved.”

From the BDUK section of the UK Government’s site – a promise of 2Mbps for all by 2015

Read Recombu Digital’s report on Fibre Broadband and BDUK

So in places where work isn’t expected to be done until March 2016, we could well see the golden 90 per cent figure hit around December 2015, with other places connected to superfast speeds later on. Or we could not.

For those in the 10 per cent, those likely to get the 2Mbps, non-superfast service, the government has promised to have this job done by 2015. From these statements we can infer that these places will be connected before any extra places will get superfast in early 2016.

But families and firms located in hard to reach areas would rather not have to infer things and instead know for sure whether the government is on track to meet this promise or not. News of projects not due to be done by 2016 will likely cause confusion, so clarity on project dates will be needed.

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