Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has promised British tech circles the fastest broadband connectivity in Europe by 2015, as the government continues its plans for a wholesale network upgrade.
The Conservative MP has highlighted the importance of online efficiency for both consumers and industry creatives, and hopes the government’s £530 million broadband project will propel the UK to the top of the continent for broadband speeds.
Hunt was speaking to experts at Silicon Roundabout in east London, where UK start-ups are seeking to emulate the success of Silicon Valley firms in California.
"To really be the best you need to be the fastest," Hunt said, according to the Guardian. "I am today announcing an ambition to be not just the best overall, but specifically the fastest broadband of any major European country.”
Hunt’s rhetoric is bold in light of the UK’s status as one of the slowest nations in Europe for Internet speeds. The government is determined to make up ground on neighbouring countries amid fears of being left behind. Earlier this year, former chief technology officer for BT Peter Cochrane warned that "Britain is being frozen out of the next industrial revolution,” adding, “In terms of broadband, the UK is at the back of the pack. We're beaten by almost every other European country and Asia leaves us for dust."
Acknowledging the importance of better connectivity, Hunt said, "Getting the plumbing right for our digital economy is not just an advantage to consumers – it is also essential for our digital and creative industries, all of whom need reliable high-speed networks to develop and export their products as they move large digital files around the world."
But the government’s broadband strategy has been criticised. A Lords communications committee said too much emphasis was being placed on enhancing ‘super-fast’ connectivity, and not enough on bridging the “damaging digital divide.” The committee said that investing too much in Internet speeds serves only to push urban areas further ahead of rural regions, leaving behind many important businesses outside the major cities.
Earlier this month, the Community Broadband Scotland organisation ramped up its own project to close the UK’s digital divide, as a new £5 million investment promised to help rural communities “overcome barriers” to establish better broadband networks.