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Web minister Maria Miller: UK WILL hit 2015 broadband target

Fibre to reach 10m households by end of Parliament, she insists

Culture Secretary Maria Miller insisted during parliamentary questioning that the government's £680m Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) project will hit its target of bringing download speeds of at least 2Mbit/s to almost every Brit by 2015.

Meanwhile, her department's rhetoric has changed to reflect the fact that many of the rural contracts won by national telco BT won't be completed until 2016.

"[T]he government promised superfast broadband by the end of 2015, but there is growing concern that they will not meet that target," said Labour MP and shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman.

She asked the cabinet minister:

"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?"

Broadband minister Ed Vaizey has previously blamed Brussels' competition officials for delaying the government's BDUK project - which has set aside £530m for the harder-to-reach parts of the countryside and a further £150m allocated for major cities in Blighty.

But he has stopped short of saying that the 2015 target would be missed.

Miller told Harman on Thursday:

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 2Mbps 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, so perhaps it is little wonder that the people of this country bought so many goods and services online in 2011 — we bought more than any other major economy.

Broadband has a fantastic role to play, and we are making sure it reaches more and more households. Indeed, it will reach 10 million more households by the end of this Parliament (2015].

The Register asked the department for culture, media and sport to explain what percentage of the population the 10 million households figure claimed by Miller actually related to. A DCMS spokesman said: "There are around 28.8 million premises in the UK so it is over one third."

Meanwhile, with its recent shift over to the single domain government website GOV.UK, the DCMS has taken the opportunity to change some of the wording about its broadband ambitions.

On its rural programme, which now counts one preferred bidder - BT - as the only broadband supplier after Fujitsu backed out of the race for government funds, Miller's department now talks of a "transformation in broadband in the UK by 2015".

It added:

"Part of the our ambition to have the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015, is to ensure that rural, as well as urban areas, are provided with good online access with a minimum of 2Mbps."

But as we recently reported, the government has its own ideas about defining the word "best" that excludes a large number of its European neighbours, whose broadband networks just so happen to be significantly faster.

Meanwhile, BT - with nearly every BDUK contract win - keeps saying that its work in the British countryside won't be complete until 2016. Someone, then, is arguably being optimistic about the true state of play. ®

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