What? What? Which? Former broadband minister Ed Vaizey dismisses report

Northern Ireland could 'lead the way in superfast broadband' after DUP deal

The UK's former digital minister Ed Vaizey has dismissed a report published by consumer charity Which? today finding more than 11 places in Blighty still receive broadband speeds of less the 10Mbps.

Speaking on the BBC's Today programme, Vaizey said he did "not agree with the premise" of the report. Average speeds were low because only one-third of people choose to take up superfast broadband speeds of 24Mbps, he said.

The Which? report found the majority of slow download speeds recorded in rural locations such as the Orkney Islands. However, it also found many local authority areas in big cities, including the capital, are getting below the national average.

The London boroughs of Southwark, Westminster, Lambeth, Hackney and the City of London were all found to be lagging behind the UK average of 17Mbps.

By 2020, anyone will be able to legally request 10Mbps as a minimum download speed under the government’s Universal Service Obligation (USO).

Vaizey was broadband minister for six years, and was responsible for the government's superfast broadband programme and the USO until he got the sack last year.

He said: "I think we have done a brilliant job in terms of delivering broadband to as many people as possible. The next big hurdle for us and the government is what is called fibre to the premise, which is when you get the pipe basically going into your house."

He added: "My message is we’ve got it right delivering broadband speeds to as many people as possible. The next great challenge is fibre to the premise, where countries like Spain are very well advanced. That is the next 5-10 year challenge."

Asked if that could have been achieved sooner had Vaizey's party invested some of the money it spent buttering up the Democratic Unionist Party to prop up May's minority government, he said he was pleased with the deal.

Yesterday, May announced Northern Ireland would receive an extra £1bn in funding from Brit taxpayers, including £150m to spend on broadband infrastructure.

"I was so delighted to see part of the £1bn is going on broadband in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland could lead the way in super fast broadband, with £150m quid," laughed Vaizey.

He told interviewer Nick Robinson that he saw Cameron tweet his support for the DUP deal. "It feels practical to get a strong and stable government.. and we will have to see how things transpire."

"So hold your nose and get on with it?

"Something like that." ®

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