UK ‘wrong to scale back FTTH target’, says Chi Onwurah
The UK needs to speed up its attempts to provide full fibre to 100% of the population, a leading politician said at a Capacity and Data Economy conference.
Opposition politician Chi Onwurah told the Digital Infra Leaders Europe conference that the UK government was wrong to scale back its target from 100% fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) coverage by 2025 to just 85%.
“This was astonishing to see,” said Onwurah (pictured), who is the Labour Party opposition’s shadow minister for science, research and digital. She is also a qualified telecoms engineer, who worked for companies such as Nortel and Cable & Wireless as well as the UK regulator Ofcom before she was elected to parliament in 2010.
The UK has allocated £5 billion for the FTTH programme, “but will spend only a third of that in the next five years”, she said.
“There are hundreds of premises that don’t have access to broadband. The first step is to fix that. I’m aware Ofcom is trying to fix it, but there is a lack of interest from the government.”
There are 1.9 million households without access to the internet, she said, “and in rural areas 50% of premises are without access to mobile”.
Onwurah, who represents the northern English seat of Newcastle upon Tyne in the UK House of Commons, complained: “We haven’t moved quickly enough to connect our digital communities. It is not a new problem but action has not been taken.”
The country “needs an ambitious plan”, said Onwurah at the conference, “and we need politicians that believe in our digital future”.