The government is to pump an additional £100m into broadband networks, aimed at boosting the UK’s faltering economic growth, chancellor George Osborne announced in his Autumn Statement.
The investment will be rolled out across 10 cities, including London, Belfast, Edinburgh and Cardiff, which will receive 80-100Mbps broadband and city-wide high-speed mobile connectivity. The chancellor also committed £10m for an Open Data Institute to help industry exploit the opportunities created through releasing public datasets.
“For the first time we are identifying over 500 infrastructure projects we want to see built over the next decade and beyond. Roads, railways, airport capacity, power stations, waste facilities, broadband networks,” George Osborne said.
The announcement follows the government’s £530m pot for broadband investment in rural areas, intended to provide 90% of UK homes with superfast broadband by 2015 and for everyone to have access to a minimum of 2Mbps internet access.
Matthew Howett, senior analyst at Ovum, welcomed Osborne’s statement. “We know we are going to need more than the £530m, but at the moment it is not clear how much more will be needed as we are waiting for more broadband investment schemes to get off the ground,” Howett said.
Howett said the private sector has already done much to roll-out broadband across the country, but added that the areas of the UK where it was not commercially viable for companies to invest in networks still required significant amounts of investment.
“The challenges in those areas shouldn’t be underestimated and the government must do everything it can to ensure they have connectivity. It can also help to achieve this by doing things that don’t require investment, such as ensuring the spectrum auction sale next year happens as quickly as possible,” Howett said.
However, Tory MP Rory Stewart recently told Computer Weekly the government’s broadband investment fund should be quadrupled to over £2bn to stimulate the country's rural economy.
During his speech, Osborne committed half a billion pounds for scientific projects, including supercomputing and satellite technology. Osborne said the government would make it easier to provide funds for smaller technology firms.
Yesterday the Cabinet Office announced government plans to release a tranche of public datasets, including information on healthcare, travel and the weather, in an attempt to help boost the UK’s flagging economy.