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UK government has no plans for broadband beyond 2015 says Labour MP

Labour MP Chi Onwurah has blasted the UK government for having no plans for the UK’s broadband infrastructure beyond 2015.

Speaking at the opening ceremony for the Fibre to the Home Council Europe conference in London’s ExCeL centre, Onwurah questioned the current administration’s tech credentials, saying that “part of the problem today is that politicians and policy makers do not know enough.”

Onwurah, who is shadow minister for innovation science and digital infrastructure, said that “infrastructure, and that has to mean Fibre to the Home [aka Fibre to the Premises], is key to our future.”

“Those who believe that the current copper infrastructure will meet our requirements ’til the end of time are living in their own little world and are ignoring all the evidence,” she added. 

UK Government has ‘No plans for Broadband beyond 2015’ says Labour MP
MP Chi Onwurah: “Fibre to the Home is key to our future”

Read Recombu Digital’s feature on Fibre Broadband and BDUK

The government’s BDUK plans have resulted in BT being awarded contracts that will roll out FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) broadband to the majority of UK homes across councils. While these will benefit some, Onwurah said that download speeds will drop off after 400 metres and that the majority of UK homes are located over 500m away from most street cabinets.

“I did ask the government what plans they had for BDUK beyond 2015 and they said, [there were] ‘no plans’,” Onwurah told the conference.

BT has plans to upgrade the last mile of FTTC, which is made of last-gen copper, with an ‘FTTP On Demand’ program, but this is expensive and way beyond the budgets of most UK homeowners.

Onwurah, one time head of telecoms technology for Ofcom, spoke of deployment of fibre in Australia, where its estimated that the cost of home health monitoring for one year, a service which FTTH could provide (and is something this government has mooted at one point) would cost as much as one day in a hospital. In Australia, the National Broadband Network plan aims to provide FTTH lines to 93 per cent of the country.

Taking the opportunity to stick the knife in to the Coalition further, Onwurah apologised to the assembled, expressing embarrassment that no-one from Whitehall could come despite attendees arriving from all over Europe. 

Perhaps tilting at more tech-savvy voters, Onwurah also spoke briefly of Labour plans to launch a review of what she called “long-termism in markets” to help a company like BT provide FTTH without affecting share prices and reward “long-term, responsible” investment. 

The next general election in the UK is scheduled for May 7, 2015, by which time most of the BDUK projects should be completed.

Image crecit: Flickr user Chi Onwurah MP

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