UK's Next Generation Fund to invest £1 billion in "super-fast broadband"

bis[UK] The UK government today announced that its Next Generation Fund will invest £1 billion to help bring “super-fast broadband” to 90% of the country by 2017, particularly rural households and businesses who might otherwise be left out of so-called Digital Britain.

The “additional” investment will be funded directly by the British tax payer as a continuation of the “duty of 50p on all fixed lines”, which was previously announced in the Digital Britain White Paper as part of the government’s unambitious ‘Universal Service Commitment’ to deliver broadband speeds of 2Mbps broadband to the whole country by 2012. The Next Generation Fund certainly ups the speed stakes, though it appears to be an ambition rather than a guarantee and, conveniently this time round, “super-fast” broadband isn’t actually defined.

A consultation will now be held with “stakeholders across the telecommunications and internet provider industry” on how best to raise and spend the fund, and a procurement team to oversee the delivery and management of Next Generation Access will soon be appointed. Although on the spending front the government has already laid out its overall aims.

Alongside evening up the country’s digital divide and boosting the digital economy, the fund is being pitched as part of the government’s sustainable growth strategy. In other words, there’s inevitably a ‘green’ political play at hand here too. The consultation paper makes great mention of the benefits the fund will bring to Telemedicine, Teleworking and Cloud computing, for example, with reference to reducing carbon emissions.

In fact, if the government is to be believed, there’s something in it for everybody. One sentence in particular caught my eye. Teleworking “brings social and economic benefits to those who are less mobile such as people with disabilities.” Now, I can personally attest to that being true. I’ve been using the Internet to overcome aspects of my disability by teleworking off and on since 1997 – although that was years before Digital Britain was even invented.