As villagers forge their own superfast connections, critics worry that Britain is building the wrong kind of national network.
This month, some 20 homes in Lancashire's isolated Quernmore valley will join the internet fast lane. Thanks to a community fundraising drive and help from an army of volunteers, 2,500 homes in a series of remote villages will log on to the kind of speeds usually reserved for office blocks.
Born out of fears that neither BT nor government subsidies would improve their broadband speed for years to come, the group's achievements make national targets look unambitious. The villagers will have a bandwidth of 1,000Mbps (megabits per second) each, when the UK average is only just approaching 8Mbps. That compares with the government's promise that Britain's remotest homes will have a connection offering a download speed of at least 2Mbps by 2015, while the rest of us will be on "superfast", which currently means more than 24Mbps.
Disquiet about the national targets, and how over £1bn of public subsidy is being spent to achieve them, reached the House of Lords last week when a select committee on communications published a highly critical report. The country is in the middle of a major transition as old copper wires are replaced with fibre-optic cables which can carry vastly more information. The peers, however, worry we are building the wrong kind of network, with the taxpayer paying for technologies that will waste money and stifle competition. Meanwhile BT, which is likely to hoover up much of the rural funding, is quietly being allowed to rebuild its monopoly.
Source: The Guardian