Much of the UK has seen an increase in broadband speeds in recent years, with many of us now experiencing super-fast broadband. Super-fast broadband refers to broadband with line speeds of around 24 megabits of data per second, and it is expected to reach 95% of the UK population by 2017/18.
Yet, reaching the final 5% is difficult, and those in remote areas may still have to struggle with broadband speeds much slower than the rest of the country come 2018. Although the government is currently looking at ways to extend the reach of super-fast broadband to meet the needs of the final 5%, those involved expect that this will cost about £500 million.
The question of how to raise this money is a hot topic on the lips of those in government, with many favouring a levy on broadband firms. What super-fast broadband really needs though is public investment.
Although the Department for Culture, Media and Sport are supposedly still to come to a decision regarding how to raise the extra £500 million, the Financial Times has stated that the government’s favoured method is through an industry levy placed on companies involved in distributing broadband. This is despite the government previously calling Labour plans to impose a levy on telephone companies to raise such money ‘archaic’.
A number of organisations have voiced their concerns over the imposition of an industry-wide levy. Many broadband companies are already testing new technologies in an effort to reach those in remote areas, and ISPA – the Internet Service Provider’s Association, has argued that a levy of this sort could actually undermine the effort already in place to extend super-fast broadband to the final 5%, rather than accelerating the process. A levy would also be bad news for broadband customers.
There is a very real chance that broadband companies would transfer the cost of such a levy onto the consumer, in the form of increased broadband bills. Some industry commentators have even suggested that if the £500 million were to be raised across two years from an industry levy, domestic broadband bills would be likely to increase by about £1 a month – bad news for the consumer.
A much more efficient way to raise the extra money would be through taxation and investment. £500 million raised through general taxation would be a quicker way of raising the money, would incentivise broadband companies to continue to explore new wireless and satellite methods of rolling out super-fast broadband and would protect consumers from higher monthly bills.
The general population would also be set to benefit from an increase in super-fast broadband, with many seeing a return on public investment in the form of improved public services. Such a connection would allow the NHS to increase the number of remote consultations, would enable public organisations such as HMRC to further move their presence online and would see more farmers using online forms, leading to a more efficient service.
The Final 5%
With more and more businesses and public services reliant on broadband, it is essential that super-fast broadband is rolled out everywhere as soon as possible. In equal measure, those in remote areas need access to super-fast too, and public investment is the best way to raise the funds to make this idea a reality, without damaging competition or increasing domestic bills.
- License: Royalty Free or iStock source: https://pixabay.com/en/glass-fiber-broadband-cable-eersel-661685/
Alex Viall is the Director of Mustard IT, a London based company which offers professional IT support to businesses across London and the Home Counties.