GUEST POST: Can the government achieve its 2018 superfast broadband target?

Our latest guest post has been written by Matt Powell, editor for the consumer broadband comparison site Broadband Genie, where he examines whether the UK government can achieve its new superfast broadband target of 2018.

When it comes to government promises, most aren’t worth the paper they are written on. However, that is usually even more the case when those promises are set for dates that are later than the next general election.

However, on this occasion they haven’t even waited until anywhere 2015 to inform us that they aren’t going to meet their broadband target. What they have done is shuffle things around a bit, with the date changing to 2018, and the percentage of homes they claim will have superfast broadband going from 90% up to 99%. Add to this the extra £250 million they are throwing into the kitty and the question is, is this any more achievable than their last promise, or are they just plucking dates out of thin air in a bid to secure more votes at the next election?

Poor track record

Personally, I’m not exactly convinced by the government’s latest claim. After all, if we look at their history with superfast broadband, it’s not exactly inspiring. Plus, from the word go BT stated that they did not believe it would be viable to roll out superfast broadband throughout the entire country.

Since the government first announced a date for superfast broadband, they have changed it 3 times. What’s more, if you look carefully at the ongoing commitment to have 90% complete by 2015 that already looks like it isn’t going to happen.

Despite claiming for some time that the 2015 target was on time, they have since admitted that it won’t, no surprise there. Add to this the fact that many of the contracts aren’t set to complete until 2016 and it’s pretty clear that things are already running behind.


The mere fact that the 2015 date is already running behind schedule doesn’t exactly bode well for the claim that 95% will have superfast broadband by 2017, or that 99% will have coverage by 2018.

However, the government still have an ace up their sleeve. Their latest claim that 99% will have coverage by 2018 includes 4G. So what they have effectively done is shifted some of the responsibility to Telefónica UK Ltd, who have been given the responsibility of ensuring that 98% of the population have coverage by the end of 2017. If they miss this date, they risk being fined by Ofcom, so it is really in their interests to meet this deadline.

Shifting goalposts

So the bottom line is this. Regardless of how well the government does over the next 3 years, Telefónica are likely to meet or get very close to meeting their target, so even if the superfast broadband rollout is miles behind schedule, the government can make the figures tally up nicely by including the 4G at the same time.

That said, I would be surprised if the government don’t achieve their latest target as all they have done is moved the goalposts to ensure that someone more competent is taking up the slack.

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