Headlines: December 8th, 2010

Plans to give all areas of the UK access to superfast broadband by 2015 will bring benefits to public services, particularly in health and education. The greatest benefits will be in the more rural and remote areas.

Higher speed broadband will lead to the creation of virtual classrooms which will be able to deliver a better quality of service and enable teachers to engage with students as a group through video conferencing. Virtual classroom have been pioneered in Australia and demonstrated how effective learning can be achieved.

Superfast broadband can also play an important role in improving the
quality and delivery of healthcare services. This can have implications particularly in rural areas where healthcare providers will come under increasing pressure over the next 20 years as the ageing population will require more services from the NHS. The median age of rural residents is nearly 6 years older than their urban counterparts.

The NHS’ Whole System Demonstrator programme is a world leader in
telehealth and telecare and the learning from that programme is shaping policy on the importance of coverage for mobile broadband.

Among other benefits, Local Authorities’ own commitment to broadband delivery should help unlock innovation in public service delivery by ensuring they have an incentive to innovate in order to realise value for money on their investment.

Communities will be able to influence and take part in extending access
networks. They will have a critical role in securing and extending superfast broadband especially in their ability to stimulate demand. Where local authorities have superfast broadband as a development priority, the development agency will work with them to develop the necessary infrastructure.

The cost of developing superfast broadband will be limited by using structures such as sewers and high voltage overhead power lines to carry fibre connections close to homes.