Upgrading UK's broadband would cost £16bn

The Broadband Stakeholder Group has published a report that argues the benefits to the UK could outweigh the cost of the upgrading the national broadband infrastructure - more than £16 billion (€20 billion).

This figure covers the cost of providing 24Mbps or greater speeds to 80% of British homes.

The report pointed out that many of these benefits would not be realised until the networks were in place and admitted that the promised social and economic benefits were hard to quantify. However the report cites more homeworking, more distributed organisations and greater use of life long learning as obvious benefits.

Nevertheless, the report cautions against rushing to invest in the build-out because it is risky, with a long payback period, but warns that the upgrade must begin in the next three to five years if the UK isn't to be left behind.

Arguably, the UK is already on the point of being left behind.  Unlike the other G7 countries, it has no FTTx in place and no plans for its roll-out.

The woolly nature of the report is an accurate reflection of indecisive regulatory approach and an over-reliance on market forces to drive investment and competition - after all, successive UK government  have looked to the private sector to fund schools, hospitals and prisons despite mounting evidence that not-for profit services and the private sector don't mix.

The issue of upgrading the UK's infrastructure is a matter of great national importance and needs to be treated as such, starting now.

The report was prepared for today's joint conference - Beyond Pipe Dreams - organised by the Broadband Stakeholder Group and Ofcom's Consumer Panel.