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What time do you call this, BT? Late, state-funded broadband rollout plods on

Ministry of Fun celebrates 80% network coverage. Whoop!

Herdwick sheep walk towards the camera

Readers may recall a time when the Tory-led UK government trumpeted plans to have the best broadband connections in Europe by, well, now.

That dream was shattered, however, when progress on the Broadband UK (BDUK) project stalled, in part due to intervention from Brussels' competition officials, who had questioned BT's tight grip on the millions of pounds of taxpayer money dished out to the one-time state monopoly.

The decision to gift BT with £530m of government funds – despite squabbles from rival suppliers bidding for the cash – was eventually waved through. And so began the arduous task of pumping fibre mainly to streetside cabinets in parts of Blighty where the telco giant had declined to invest its own money, because those areas were not considered commercially viable.

To date, the government has pledged £790m of taxpayer money to bring faster broadband connections to Brits.

Its initial £530m BDUK pot of cash was expected to help BT reach 90 per cent of the UK by this year. That deadline later slipped to December 2016. Meanwhile, a further £250m was ponied up for a second phase of the project to improve broadband speeds for 95 per cent of homes and businesses by the end of 2017.

Finally, pilot options for "near universal coverage" are being tested with tech such as wireless and satellite at a cost of £10m to the public purse.

Today, chief Ministry of Fun wrangler Sajid Javid was excited to announce that another 2 million homes and businesses could now shell out cash on faster broadband connection speeds.

The Secretary of State claimed it was "a tremendous result", given that roughly 80 per cent of properties now had better network coverage – when you combine commercial deployments with the state aid-funded rollout.

However, the government had originally hoped to offer "superfast" broadband access with downstream speeds greater than 24Mbit/s to 90 per cent of Brits by now. So no matter which way Whitehall tries to spin it – this project has been a failure for the current administration. ®

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