MPs criticise gigabit broadband rollout plans

23 December 2020   By Dr Lucy Brown, Editor

Committee of MPs have criticised the Government for their unrealistic and unacceptable gigabit-capable broadband rollout.

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee says the Government took too long to admit their nationwide coverage target by 2025 was unachievable.

They have also questioned why only 25% of the £5bn allocated funding has been made available for the next four years and whether that funding is enough to connect hard-to-reach homes and businesses.

As part of their recommendations, they would like to see a full assessment of how 85% coverage can be achieved, along with information about the £3.8bn that hasn't yet been allocated.

fibre broadband on technology background

Committee investigation

It was announced back in March that the DCMS Committee planned to scrutinise the Government's plans for nationwide gigabit-capable broadband.

Since then, the Government has quietly scrapped the target of nationwide coverage by 2025, bringing it down to 85% instead.

However, the DCMS committee criticised the Government for taking so long to admit the promises they made during the 2019 General Election were unachievable.

They have also warned it would be unacceptable for the Government to admit their first pledge was unrealistic and then to fail on the second, less ambitious pledge due to inadequate funding or a lack of effective planning.


The report puts forward various recommendations, but the major underlying theme is that the Government needs to be clearer about their plans.

So, they recommend:

  • The Government explain how it reached the new 85% target and provides a full assessment of how likely it is to be met
  • A target date should be set for the remaining 15% of the country to be reached
  • Details of when the £3.8bn remaining funding is expected to be released should be made available

The committee also wants the Government to complete a formal review of their progress towards gigabit-capable broadband by the end of 2022 and report back.

Another key point they raise is the strain on local authority budgets as the roll out picks up speed, so they recommend the expertise gained during the superfast broadband roll out should be utilised.

Gigabit roll out

The DCSM Committee's report is clear: the scale of ambition for gigabit-capable broadband isn't matched by the level of attention to the serious barriers facing it.

Criticism like this isn't new. It was raised even before the 100% by 2025 target was scrapped in a report from the Social Market Foundation (SMF) back in October.

That document set out eight recommendations to develop a more proactive approach to the roll out, something echoed in this latest report when they say the Government's "wait and see" approach to the number of third-party access challenges and problems around the number of engineers.

Certainly, the industry is taking steps to address these problems themselves, with the announcement last week that Openreach is hiring 5,300 new engineers to accelerate the full-fibre rollout.

However, the overarching criticism within the DCSM Committee's report is one that possibly stems from the history of the initial pledge to deliver gigabit-capable broadband nationwide by 2025.

It was Government policy in 2018 to provide full-fibre to 15 million UK premises by 2025 and achieve full nationwide coverage no later than 2033.

That target changed abruptly during the Conservative Party leadership election in 2019 when eventual winner Boris Johnson stated he wanted to bring the full coverage deadline forward to 2025.

Since then, the industry has been scrambling to catch up, with industry professionals repeating saying the target was difficult if not impossible. Many of them are saying the same about the new 85% target too.

Openreach's target is to pass 4.5 million premises by March 2021, with 3.4 million of these covered by mid-December.

Similarly, Virgin Media have continued the upgrade of their cable networks, bringing gigabit speeds to a total of 6.8 million households to date.

All this progress is good. Yet, as the DCMS Committee points out, a firm plan from the Government is needed to keep the roll-out on track.

Which broadband deals are available in your area?

independent comparison

We are independent of all of the products and services we compare.

fair comparison

We order our comparison tables by price or feature and never by referral revenue.

charity donations and climate positive

We donate at least 5% of our profits to charity, and we have a climate positive workforce.

Get insider tips and the latest offers in our newsletter