Broadband in the UK still does not adequately serve the needs of today's businesses, and the government needs to do more to bridge the digital divide and make Internet access more affordable, according to the IT industry.
In last year's budget, Chancellor George Osborne said that the government would fund “ultra fast” broadband rollouts in the UK's 10 largest cities, including Belfast, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London. A further £50 million was earmarked for smaller cities.
With improved mobile coverage, Osborne said, “we will have the most connected countryside in Europe”.
However, one year later, there are still parts of the country where it is impossible to get decent broadband coverage, let alone a mobile signal. Members of the IT community are now asking for more decisive action in this year's budget.
David Richards, Network Administrator at Eurosoft, told Techworld that his company is suffering as a result of poor broadband provision.
“We can't get any good fast connection (10Mbps up and down or higher) without paying a ton a month. We can't get fibre internet, even though people three doors down can – which happens to be the town hall,” he said.
“Sure we can get 17Mbps ADSL from BT, but the upload side is really really poor. We need to send huge files to our customers. It takes days, yes days, to upload a file. If it is really bad, we have to put them on to tape and mail the tape out.”
Another IT manager from Aberdeen, who goes by the online name Kenny8416, said that it is is really annoying to hear all the advertisements for Infinity broadband, when there are still areas of the county struggling with 1Mbps links.
“As the industry moves more and more towards 'cloud' or hosted services, comms will become more and more key to business operations,” he said.
“Might even be an idea to put some of the budget for that to some of the BT alternatives (Virgin for example) to try and get them to extend their networks to more parts of the country. I feel at the moment BT (Wholesale/OpenReach) are just too comfortable knowing for most they're the only option.”
Fujitsu announced this week that it is pulling out of future bidding for the £530 million state funding to deliver superfast broadband in rural areas, after BT won every contract to date.
Most recently, BT has won an £8 million deal from Northamptonshire County Counci, and a £20 million deal from Kent County Council, which are both aiming to boost their local economies by connecting more companies and consumers to superfast fibre broadband.
Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), the body tasked with governing the competitive process for the UK’s superfast broadband rollout into rural areas, expects that it will spend just 63 percent of its £3.8 million administration budget on the rural broadband delivery programme in 2012-13.
Minister for Culture and Communications, Ed Vaizey, said that the diversion in funds has occurred as a result of the body taking on additional responsibilities, such as the Mobile Infrastructure Project and the Urban Broadband Fund.
It was also revealed at the end of last year that BDUK is paying external consultants an average of £834 a day, and between May 2010 and September 2012 spent a total of £9.8 million on 70 external advisers.