Broadband strategy criticised

By Georgie Keate

Peers have attacked the government's broadband strategy for creating a "digital divide" between cities and rural areas.

The Lords' communications committee claimed the government had a misguided fixation on internet speed rather than access, leaving some communities without networks.

"The delivery of certain speeds should not be the guiding principle; what is important is the long term assurance that as new internet applications emerge, everyone will be able to benefit, from inhabitants of inner cities to the remotest areas of the UK," its report published today argued.

Digital minister Ed Vaizey said "a lot of public money" is being spent to improve broadband access in order to achieve the best superfast service in Europe by 2015.

The Lords' report advised that broadband should be treated as a vital national asset in the same way as energy, rail and roads.

Vaizey insisted that there is currently £1.2 million in funding going to remote rural areas to create better networks, however.

"In terms of the best superfast broadband in Europe, we don't just want fast speeds. We want the most competitive marketplace and we do have the most competitive marketplace in Europe," he told the Today programme.

"That includes price as well. There is absolutely no point having super-fast broadband coming past your door if you cannot afford it. We do want competition on price and we have very low prices."

The March Budget planned to create investments of £100 million in the UK's top ten cities for "super-connected" broadband and an additional £50 million for ten smaller cities.