Broadband should 'be treated as a public utility' header image

Broadband should be treated like a utility, such as gas and electricity, to ensure everyone in the UK has access to it, according to a new report.

The document - produced by a House of Commons Select Committee - outlines a vision of Britain's digital services for the next government, which will be decided upon in May's general election.

It advises that broadband should be ranked alongside gas, water and electricity as something that needs to be made available for every household and business premises in the UK.

"Digital technology is changing all our lives, work, society and politics. It brings with it huge opportunities for the UK, but also significant risks. This demands an ambitious approach which will secure the UK’s position as a digital leader," says the report.

Across the pond, policies of this ilk have been met with criticism from internet service providers, as they felt making access to basic internet a right rather than a privilege would limit investment in broadband infrastructure by firms wishing to offer a more premium service.

However, the report has highlighted issues that have been raised by many business groups, rural communities, campaigners and politicians, including concerns over the speed, consistency and availability of broadband provision in the UK.

Those residing and working in the countryside have been unhappy with their connectivity, despite a £1.7 billion government-backed rollout of super-fast broadband to some of the UK's remotest areas, as this will still leave some households and firms without the service.

The committee calls for internet access to be the main focus of an ambitious digital agenda for Britain.

"There is still a real concern that the UK will be left behind in this new digital era. We are at a tipping point." the report said.

The committee said it is concerned about the pace of universal internet coverage and the delivery of super-fast broadband. It believes the lack of connectivity in urban areas, such as London, is hindering the UK's international competitiveness.

A host of recommendations have been outlined in the report, including raising awareness of what opportunities can be provided by digital technology and how to overcome financing issues. It also suggests improving education in digital services to ensure that "no child leaves the education system without basic numeracy, literacy and digital literacy".