A petition has been launched to scrap HS2, the government’s high speed rail project, in favour of a scheme to provide superfast fibre broadband connections for everyone.
Instead of spending an estimated £50 billion on railway upgrade that will primarily benefit those in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, the petition argues that £22 billion could be spent on a broadband upgrade that would benefit everyone.
The government is already spending millions on connecting homes to fibre-based broadband with money from the BDUK (Broadband Delivery for the UK) fund, but this will not give everyone a superfast connection.
Those living and working in hard to reach areas stand to lose out. Councils who’ve signed BDUK contracts with BT have been asked to reveal the locations of these predominantly rural hard to reach areas are. Not all local authorities have been forthcoming, preventing competition from stepping in and bridging the digital divide.
Most locations covered under BDUK schemes stand to get a fibre-based FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) connection from BT. While this provides a much faster top speed than ADSL broadband, this can currently only go as fast as 80Mbps. Even then, you’ll only get a speed approaching this if you’re located within a stone’s throw of a connected street cabinet.
The petition, set up by Lincolnshire-based broadband activist Matthew Coutts, argues that the UK is slipping behind in a global race:
“South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Switzerland and Latvia are the top 5 fastest connected countries in the world today. The UK is ranked 17th currently.
“The government is always going on about strengthening the economy. Estimates for [fibre broadband for everyone] would mean there would still be money left over to spend on other proposed projects to help benefit the UK as a whole rather than just specific areas.”
The petition arrives as a YouGov survey conducted for the Sunday Times reveals that the majority of the public now oppose the high speed railway plans.
A separate Public Accounts Committee report has blamed the Department of Transport for not presenting a solid case for spending billions of taxpayer’s money on HS2 and has called for more detailed evidence.
The e-petition ‘Scrap the High Speed 2 Plans in favour of rolling out a true national fibre optic broadband network (FTTP/FTTH)’ needs 100,000 signatures before it can be considered eligible for debate in the House of Commons. You can sign the petition here.