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Government risks failing to meet latest, less ambitious 2025 gigabit-capable broadband target, warn MPs

22 December 2020

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee warns the Government that it risks failing to meet its revised-down target for gigabit-capable broadband in the face of considerable challenges to infrastructure roll-out.

Evidence to the Broadband and the road to 5G inquiry found little confidence that nationwide gigabit-capable broadband by 2025 could be delivered and “no genuine belief" within the sector that it was achievable. Challenged on the target throughout the inquiry, Ministers reassured the Committee of the Government’s commitment to it, however, within weeks of these appearances before MPs, the Government abandoned its commitment to nationwide gigabit-capable broadband by 2025, aiming instead for 85% coverage by that date.

The Report says it would not be acceptable having abandoned one unrealistic target, for the Government to fail to meet a second less ambitious target through lack of effective planning or inadequate investment.
MPs also flag concerns that only 25% of the Government’s £5 billion to support roll-out to the hardest-to-reach premises will be made available during this period.

The Report finds the Government's target for majority 5G coverage by 2027 ‘equally ambitious’, given rulings banning the use of equipment by high-risk vendors. MPs warn that its roll-out risks repeating the legacy of mobile 'not-spots'.

DCMS Committee Chair Julian Knight MP said:

“The Government’s decision to abandon its 2025 gigabit-capable broadband target within weeks of Ministers reassuring us of their commitment to it was a belated recognition that it was unrealistic and unachievable, underlining concerns we’d heard from industry.

“Valuable time has been lost, making meeting even the revised-down target a major challenge.

“On 5G, the Government’s target to deliver to the majority of the population, rather than the majority of the country, risks repeating the same errors that led to mobile ‘not-spots’ with investors cherry-picking areas of high population and leaving people in remote rural areas without a hope.”

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Image: CCO