The UK government has reneged on its previous pledge to roll out ultrafast broadband to every home by 2025 after Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s spending review resulted in a new, lower target.
The plans are now to hit a “minimum of 85% coverage” in Britain by the middle of the decade, which is a major reversal from the bullish statements made by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the run-up to last year’s general election.
The government had also promised to invest £5bn to bring fibre broadband to hard-to-reach rural areas, but the latest spending review means that only £1.2bn will be made available by 2024.
The target of getting gigabit-speed broadband to everyone within five years had been ambitious, and some industry watchers believed that it was going to be challenging to achieve.
However, internet and network providers are seeking answers from the government and want clarification about the reduced investment.
One industry source claimed that the “government is basically getting in its tractor and heading back to London”.
There are fears that those living in homes outside major cities and towns will now have to put up with slower speeds.
Ofcom research shows that around 600,000 homes and businesses still have connection speeds of 10Mbps or less.
Commercial deployments of faster fibre networks are set to continue without government intervention, but this will only see around 70% of premises being served by 2025.
Andrew Glover, Internet Service Providers Association chairman, said that it was now important to tackle the regulatory and practical barriers that are slowing down the rollout to rural communities.