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Ultra-fast broadband for rural areas has been abandoned, MPs warn

Newspapers, including The Times, the Financial Times and The Guardian, have reported that rural areas could be locked out of having cutting-edge gigabit broadband for years because of a litany of Government failures, MPs have concluded

In a report by the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) the Government has been accused of ‘yet again failing to prioritise’ rural areas.

The PAC said that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport took too long to admit that it would not meet a 2019 Conservative election pledge of providing gigabit broadband across the country by 2025.

It was not until its spending review last November that the Government revealed that it was adjusting its target, aiming for at least 85 per cent of all UK premises instead.

However, the PAC said that even with this reduced target the Government had failed to make any meaningful progress on the problems that the telecoms industry and experts raised.

These include changes to planning regulations, business rates and requirements for new-build properties.

The Committee said it feared that in the event of delays to its 2025 target, the Government would look to reach as many premises as possible in concentrated areas, and rural areas ‘would once more go to the back of the queue’.

It added that the Government had also announced that for now it was committing less than a quarter of the £5 billion it promised for the introduction, with the rest not allocated until 2024.

This ‘heightens concerns’ that consumers in remote areas ‘will have to wait until well beyond 2025 for gigabit broadband speeds and may not even get superfast speeds before then’, the report says.

Full articles:

The Times - 8th January 2021, page 20

The Financial Times - UK ‘gigabit’ broadband rollout under fire from MPs

The Guardian - UK will miss 2025 target for full-fibre broadband rollout, MPs warn

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