UK can do 100Mbps broadband for all with existing cash
The UK could provide every household with a 100Mbps broadband connection with the money already available, provided it used the existing infrastructure efficiently, claims a policy studies think-tank.
The Information Society Alliance (ISA), a policy studies group inside Eurim, the industry/parliamentary body, said sharing and building on existing infrastructures could “dramatically cut” the cost of providing local online access to public services. This would lead to “major savings” to both central and local government as well as open up access for businesses.
Referring to the award of just four out of 18 bids from counties for a share of £530m earmarked for broadband roll-outs, ISA said local authorities and elected officials needed “to consider all options to get the ‘fourth utility’ to many hard-to-reach homes”.
Previous studies estimated it would cost up to £29bn to put a 100Mbps optical fibre connection in every home and business. Some 90% of this was in civil engineering costs, such as digging up roads.
Last week the ISA launched two studies, one on shared communications network infrastructure, the other on information and identity governance.
A preliminary ISA study found there are 5,600 telephone exchanges in the UK, but 150,000 electricity substations. “In many cases fibre (which is immune to electrical interference from power lines) could be strung up alongside power lines to homes instead of digging up roads,” it said.
It added that schools networks already provide 20Mbps access to primary schools and 100Mbps to secondary schools. “In some cases these are already being used to provide broadband to local councils, businesses and homes,” ISA said, arguing for the scheme to extend to all communities.
Finally, it said, the government’s smart meter project would see £11bn ploughed into connecting 30 million homes to a “smart grid” always-on communications network for energy management. This was in addition to billions spent by the NHS and local health authorities to improve their networks.
ISA said combining the infrastructure investments of health departments, smart metering and broadband would would cut 570TWh of losses of electricity from transmission, energy conversion and over-production. This was three times the output from all the UK’s active nuclear power stations, it said.
In addition, high speed broadband would allow millions more to work from home, further reducing energy usage and emissions, it said.
The ISA study will look at the economics, practicalities and politics of rationalising networking agendas, as well as ways and means to do it to international inter-operability standards.