Public Accounts Committee critical of 1GB roll out

8 January 2021   By Dr Lucy Brown, Editor

Influential committee of MPs concludes the Government's plan for rolling out gigabit capable broadband is lacking in detail.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) say plans for delivering the gigabit programme are vague and fail to acknowledge risks and barriers to roll out.

In their report, the PAC make several recommendations that could help the programme progress smoothly such as the creation of a clear timeline with key milestones.

They also suggest the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) should identify risks to the roll out and decide how these will be addressed.

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Vague plans

The PAC report is highly critical of the Government's approach to the gigabit programme, pointing out more than a year has passed since the pledge for gigabit-capable broadband was reaffirmed at the 2019 General Election.

After hearing evidence, MPs concluded the DCMS had failed to make meaningful progress in tackling the barriers network operators face during the roll out.

For example, they highlighted the fact necessary legislative and policy changes haven't yet been made across the different departments responsible for them. This includes changes to planning regulations and requirements for new build properties.

Along with this, the committee expressed concern there was no published plan to determine which properties should be prioritised which may lead to the most difficult to reach homes overlooked in a race to hit the target of 85%.


The PAC made a series of recommendations to the DCMS and Government as a whole including:

  1. A clear timeline of activities should be set out including the final dates when key milestones must be reached to keep the roll out on target. Updates on these should be then published annually.
  2. Risks and barriers that have the greatest potential to delay the programme and increase costs. A plan for how and when these will be addressed should be developed.
  3. The DCMS should set out how it will establish which properties do not yet have superfast broadband and therefore should receive a gigabit connection earlier. It should also explain when they can expect to receive a gigabit connection.

MPs were also clear customers should be protected from overpaying for broadband in the future if only a single supplier is operational in their area.

In response to the report, the Government said they did not agree with the findings and that it contained a number of inaccuracies.

Troubled roll out

The PAC isn't the first committee to criticise the Government's plan for gigabit-capable broadband in recent weeks, with the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee making similar arguments less than a month ago.

While both committees have different remits, some of their criticisms were identical, with both questioning why only 25% of the £5bn funding allocated to the roll out has been made available for the next four years.

At the time the PAC took evidence from civil servants, the Government was still set on their 100% nationwide coverage pledge. This was scrapped in the Spending Review unveiled in November 2020, and was instead reset to an 85% target by 2025.

As the PAC notes, 80% of the programme is expected to be completed by the broadband industry anyway, and no details have been supplied about when the remaining 15% of households could expect to be connected to gigabit-capable broadband.

Criticism about the Government's approach to gigabit-capable broadband has not been confined to committees of MPs.

In October 2020, the month before the Spending Review, a report from the Social Market Foundation (SMF) made eight recommendations to help improve the roll out plan.

Many of their recommendations have been echoed in these committee reports.

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