THE BLOG

Broadband and the Digital Revolution

29/12/2015 10:20 GMT | Updated 28/12/2016 10:12 GMT

Around this time twenty five years ago, Tim Berners-Lee's first World Wide Web page flickered into action; now there are around a billion websites online. It heralded the start of a digital revolution, and is just one of the many modern technological developments to follow that the UK would pioneer.

Since then our lives have already been radically transformed by the Internet, influencing every part of our everyday activities. At home, it allows us to shop, learn and be entertained. At work, it gives us the power to grow a business, be an economic powerhouse, and trade all over the globe. The world without a doubt has changed dramatically and I'm determined to make sure the UK continues to play a leading role. And this makes it all the more important that no-one in the UK is left behind to benefit from all that digital technology has to offer.

Over the past few years we've been undertaking a mammoth infrastructure project, perhaps one that even Isambard Kingdom Brunel would marvel at. The rollout of superfast broadband has now reached almost 90 per cent of homes and businesses in the UK, up from zero in 2008. In Europe, across the big five countries, we're now top of the list for broadband coverage, take-up, choice and price, with significant improvements over the year.

But that's not enough. It is vital that broadband reaches every part of the country and so that's we've invested heavily in rural rollout. More than 3.5 million homes and businesses across the UK who would otherwise have been left behind now have access to superfast speeds. Every week, more and more homes will get connected, and we're on track for 95 per cent coverage by 2017.

In Parliament, in my email inbox and out on the streets, I'm challenged on how communities are frustrated that they're still left behind. Believe me, I can share that frustration but it's a huge engineering project and one that, as much as I'd hope otherwise, cannot happen overnight. Credit where credit is due though, it is the fastest rollout of its kind anywhere in the world.

So what more are we doing? We're planning to give people a legal right to request fast broadband. We want access to broadband to be put on similar footing to other basic services, and our ambition is for even homes and businesses in the most remote parts of the UK to expect a broadband connection of at least 10 Mbps by end of this Parliament in 2020.

2020 may seem far away, so more immediately those in the slowest parts of the country will have help through a new satellite offer. A scheme being rolled out this month forms part of our commitment to make sure every home and business in the UK can access speeds of at least 2 Mbps. So if you're in one of the 300,000 or so homes that cannot get 2 Mbps, we will give you a free satellite dish and cover most of the installation costs so you can get connected for an affordable price.

It's not just about homes - small businesses are the backbone of Britain. It's been fantastic that almost 55,000 of them took up our offer of a broadband connection voucher to boost their Internet speeds and bottom line. Businesses that benefitted from the scheme are reporting an average annual increase in profits of £1,300 per year and the creation of a new job for every four new connections. So for every £1 the UK Government invested in the scheme, more than £5 will be returned to the UK economy.

We are living in a digital world. The next few years promise to see some of the most exciting technological developments in history, and this Government is making sure that the UK is positioned right at the heart of things.