UK risks larger digital divide

Rural communities must work with the UK government to bridge a digital divide that threatens the country’s plans for high-speed broadband access, research firm Point Topic states.
The firm revealed that penetration of basic 2Mbps broadband services in rural areas lags urban centers by around 35% to 40%, and predicts the gap will grow as average connection speeds increase.
“The higher speeds which people will expect and need in future will simply not be available in the countryside unless radical action is taken,” chief analyst Tim Johnson says.
In July, BT Openreach chairman Steve Robertson called for public funds to be allocated to achieve the government’s goal of offering a minimum 2MB connection to every UK home by 2015, after estimating the cost at £2 billion (€2.3 billion).
However, limited public cash means rural communities must work out how to leverage the potential benefits of high-speed connections to finance deployments, Johnson said.
He called on the government to clarify the regulatory situation to boost investment by smaller network providers.
“How can a small operator deploy a network when there is a real concern they’ll be gazumped by a BT or Virgin deployment as yet unannounced? How can small operators afford to pay extortionate rates on any fiber they do install and still make the numbers add up?”
A recent Google-backed study by Boston Consulting Group found that Web transactions generated £100 million for the UK economy in 2009, equivalent to 7.2% of GDP and predicted income will grow to account for 10% of GDP by 2015.