The UK government has announced that it is adding an extra £362 million to its fund to stimulate broadband expansion in rural areas.
The funding is part of a £530 million package originally pledged by the government back in 2010 to try and secure high speed broadband access for most UK homes and businesses by 2015. The funding will be split between £294 million for English local authorities and some private companies; and £68.8 million for the Scottish government.
Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, who made the announcement, commented that ‘fast broadband is absolutely vital to our economic growth’. Mr Hunt added that he was ‘not prepared to let some parts of our country get left behind in the digital age’.
Some critics, including the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), have however expressed disappointment in the level of funding. John Walker, national chairman of the FSB, described the overall £530 million package as ‘just a drop in the ocean’.
High speed broadband is increasingly seen by the commercial sector as an essential requirement for maintaining competitive advantage.
It is often pointed out, for example, that e-commerce is capturing an ever-larger share of business activity worldwide, and that delays or corruptions in either the transmission or reception of data can deter potential customers.
Businesses are also increasingly frustrated at not being able to access the many important added value services which can only be accessed via a reliable high speed broadband link. These latter include internet protocol (IP) telephony and business VoIP (voice over internet protocol).
Business VoIP, as an example of these value added services, can offer companies many advantages over conventional telephone line provision; not least being its greater scope for managing internal business phone systems; and its potential for securing substantially cheaper phone costs.