Broadband for 'virtually' all by 2012, says Darling's Budget

23 April 2009 / by Rachael Stiles
Alistair Darling pledged in his Budget yesterday that "virtually everyone" in Britain would have broadband speeds of two megabytes per second, by 2012.

Making broandband available to everyone is "vital to ensure the entire country and economy benefits from the digital age," the Chancellor said in the Budget speech yesterday.

The plan will largely be paid for with £250million of surplus money from the BBC's Digital Switchover Help Scheme, which was allocated £800million of licence fee money to help elderly or disabled people to switch over to digital television.

But Chanel 4's technology correspondent, Benjamin Cohen, questions the usefulness of a two Mb/s guarantee, when some of the major broadband providers have already said they will be offering speeds of 40 Mb/s by 2012.

Mr Cohen's response to the Chancellor's announcement was "so what?", adding that speeds of two Mb/s would not be "that great an achievement considering the average download speed is already more than double that at 4.3 Mb/s."

By 2012, half of the UK will already be enjoying speeds of 40 Mb/s with BT broadband and Virgin Media broadband, he points out, while Virgin Media has also suggested that speeds of up to 100 Mb/s could be attainable in the near future.

"So while many of us will be able to watch multiple high definition tv programmes via our internet connections while at the same time downloading whole albums in a couple of seconds, others will be only be able to manage Youtube or the low resolution BBC iPlayer," he said.

"If that's not a new digital divide, I don't know what is."

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