NESTA, the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, has called on the government to deliver faster fibre-based broadband access across the whole of the UK in the next five years.
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It is also demanding free basic broadband for the poor. NESTA says the government could grant telecommunication companies access to valuable radio spectrum in exchange for the installation of fibre-optic cables nationwide.
The "Spectrum for Speed" swap is being recommended in advance of the launch of the government-commissioned Carter Report. NESTA is calling on the Carter team to be more ambitious about its plans for accelerating universal provision, claiming that the roll-out of super-fast broadband can be achieved at minimal cost to the public purse.
Industry sources suggest that between 80% and 90% of people in the UK already have access to normal broadband.
Jonathan Kestenbaum, NESTA chief executive, said, "We have to go much further, particularly during recessionary times. Unless we invest in super-fast broadband, the UK will lose a critical opportunity."
NESTA says fibre-optic infrastructure can be delivered across the whole of the UK at a baseline cost of £5bn.
By giving the telecom companies radio spectrum access up to the value of £5bn in exchange for fibre-optic infrastructure, NESTA estimates that the UK stands to directly benefit from the creation of 600,000 IT jobs over the next four years, with £18bn added to GDP.