Last week saw broadband campaigners out in force to say a collective ‘NO’ against the budget cuts that will kill off the chances of high speed broadband connections to rural homes and businesses. The need for high speed broadband to be blanketed across rural areas has been widely reported since 2011, when more and more businesses began to see the pitfalls of internet speeds in rural areas and how much business disruption this causes. So last week’s bombshell comes as a surprise to many who believed that this was a simple matter to be addressed and corrected.
The current monetary cuts have been widely reported as going from €8.2bn (£7bn) to just €1bn. This could result in investment plans that have been in place over the past few years, being cut by over half from €50bn to €24bn, with the biggest chunk of the cut being backed by David Cameron. Whether or not this matter will be reversed during the budget cuts voting in March no one can decide, but the sheer investment that will be stripped will definitely need addressing.
As with all budget announcements, it has caused a massive amount of media backlash and it’s been especially hard for those peoples who have been working tirelessly on faster broadband for all. The Director of the Community Broadband Network, Brian Condon, has been reported in the Guardian as stating that this is a “Giant Leap Backwards” and he isn’t wrong. With Governments across the globe working with the latest technologies and new innovations, the idea of not being able to offer adequate broadband to all in 2013 seems absurd. There is also the fact that if the issue of rural internet connections was finally solved, new businesses would open and be able to thrive, thus bringing in the opportunity for more jobs and a stronger economic future.
The general consensus of the initial plan was along the lines of enabling broadband speeds of up to 100 Megabits per second in rural areas for up to half of Europe’s population by 2020, with the rest of the areas staying at around 30 megabits. This would be a giant leap from how rural broadband speeds are currently running, Lancashire County Council in the UK recently stated that their rural speeds are normally no higher than 8 Megabits per second.
There are many reasons for this cut, as there are with any budget amendment, with the main reason concerning the undisputable fact that rural areas are so sparsely populated that it is simply uneconomic to install high speed broadband when there are so few people there to use it!
The next step for the campaigners is to wait and see what happens during the initial budget vote next month and then it will be down to private providers like Virgin Media Broadband and others in the EU to decide whether they will put forward the money to make this happen. Either way, it doesn’t look set to happen in time for 2020.