(Satel)lite at the end of the tunnel? for some!

One rural area finally gets online thanks to satellite broadband, but hundreds of thousands are still without.

Junior Culture Minister Ed Vaizey proudly announced recently that homes in Exmoor were now online for the first time, thanks to broadband delivered by satellite. The rural area, considered by the larger telecoms companies to be not commercially viable for conventional cable as they are too hard to reach, was until now one of hundreds of UK locations still offline.

The junior minister cited Exmoor as the first example of satellite internet being used for residential customers on a large scale at an affordable price, giving hope to the 850,000 other Britons who still can’t access basic broadband of 2Mbps. He even went so far as to say, “Superfast broadband must be available for everyone – public investment is making it happen.”

That public investment into solving the rural broadband problem is said to be £1.7bn, with Broadband Delivery UK responsible for achieving the Government’s ambition of getting superfast broadband (24Mbps) to 95% of the UK and the basic 2Mbps to the other 5% by 2017.

With such an enormous sum quoted, it’s no wonder that MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee are calling for more investment into the satellite broadband solution. They believe that a current voucher scheme, which enables city-based businesses to claim up to £3,000 to improve their internet access, is unbalanced and should be extended to rural communities who cannot get minimum broadband speeds, to prevent the UK becoming a “two-tier society”. Anne McIntosh, the committee chairman, rightly believes that broadband plays a major role in 21st century living and that the Government is risking leaving 5% of the country behind, saying:

“Broadband is an essential, everyday public utility. Schoolchildren can’t do their homework, people can’t pay their tax, people can’t even watch a film on it. It’s the haves and the haves not.”

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee also questioned the Government’s targets on a number of fronts. It believes that the original 2Mbps minimum is now way out of date and that 10Mbps would be more realistic to meet current technological demands. Furthermore, the committee advises that even this speed be revised upwards regularly to prevent the UK from falling behind the rest of Europe. As for the Government’s own deadline of 2017, the committee also flagged a recent report by BT that said the superfast broadband delivery could slip to 2018.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport, where BDUK sits, responded to both criticisms, saying that work was “already in place to take superfast speeds to the final 5%” (that’s 24Mbps not just the suggested 10Mbps, remember) though no date was given on this, despite the committee’s calls for a date to be set for universal superfast access. DCMS also brushed off the BT report, claiming that the original target for getting superfast to the 95% was still on track and furthermore that it aimed to get the other 5% up to the minimum speed of 2Mbps by the end of this year – two years ahead of schedule.

If your rural location doesn’t afford you basic broadband and you believe that waiting for the Government’s lowly 2Mbps isn’t a viable option, then have a read of how europasat’s satellite broadband can help.