On behalf of 20,000 union members in the communications sector, Prospect general secretary Paul Noon said that the £530m figure announced is being skimmed from the BBC’s licence fee, and is much lower than would have been provided by the previous government’s ‘landline duty’.
“This is not new money. It is inadequate to extend superfast broadband to rural areas and amounts to a cut of around £400m from the previous government’s pledge. The shortfall threatens to open up a digital divide between rural and urban Britain, with at least 10% of the country still being without broadband come 2015.
“While we welcome the fact that that the money is now to be handed to local initiatives rather than through tenders by councils on a piecemeal basis, it is a false economy to cut funding from broadband rollout when we need economic growth. Research shows that every 10% increase in penetration of broadband rollout delivers a 1% increase in GDP.”
Noon said the union argued in its response to the Department for Culture Media and Sport’s framework review of communications regulation that a piecemeal approach would carry clear dangers to the ambitions of the programme. However front-loading the money would encourage investors to engage in more high-profile projects, thereby extending the reach of superfast broadband more quickly.
Prospect fears the £530m sum revealed today will not deliver the step-change required to deliver the best broadband in Europe by 2015, as pledged by the government.