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UK.gov abandons 2012 rural broadband pledge

Digital divide stays for now

The government has dumped a commitment to deliver universal access to 2Mbit/s broadband by 2012.

The culture secretary Jeremy Hunt said this morning that the previous government had failed to allocate enough funding to meet the schedule.

Instead, he pledged that all households will have access to a 2Mbit/s downstream service by the end of this Parliament, which assuming the coalition holds together will be in May 2015.

Last year's Digital Britain report claimed one in 10 homes' broadband access falls short of 2Mbit/s, and the government currently estimates there are 160,000 homes in rural areas unable to get any broadband access at all.

Labour first committed to universal 2Mbit/s access by 2012 in January last year, planning to use a large proportion of the £130m annual surplus from the television licence created by the switch off of analogue transmitters.

Hunt today said: "Unfortunately... we found it wasn't enough."

The plan remains to deliver ubiquitous access through an array of national and local providers, and both fixed and wireless technologies.

He was speaking at a conference convened by Broadband Delivery UK, an new unit in the Department of Business that will manage the universal service committment and the rollout of next generation fibre networks. ®

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