A free satellite dish is to be given to people with the slowest broadband speeds in the UK as an “early Christmas present”, the Government has announced.
About 300,000 homes and businesses with access only to an “affordable” internet connection slower than 2mbps will be able to claim about £350 towards the cost of a dish, installation and a year’s subscription.
If they all claimed, this could cost up to £105m, but only £15m has been set aside to cover the scheme. About 90 per cent of the population has access to super-fast broadband, but the Government hopes to give everyone a legal right to a minimum speed of 10mbps by 2020.
Ed Vaizey, the digital economy minister, said: “Our roll-out of super-fast broadband has already reached an additional 3.5 million homes and businesses who would otherwise have missed out.
“We are making tremendous progress, but it’s a massive engineering project and won’t happen overnight. This [free satellite dish] scheme offers immediate assistance to those homes and businesses in the most remote areas with the slowest speeds.”
It is being rolled out across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland over December from tomorrow. Wales already has a similar scheme in place.
A spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said it was “confident” that enough money had been set aside to meet the demand, saying not everyone would claim.
Chi Onwurah, the shadow minister for culture and the digital economy, said Labour had planned to give everyone in the country access to at least 2mbps by 2012 – enough to browse the internet, send emails and stream music – but this target had been scrapped under the coalition.
She said the Government’s offer of a free satellite dish was “a U-turn and an admission of their complete disarray on broadband”, adding that £15m would not make much difference.
“It’s too little, too late,” she said. “Countries like Romania started off with really bad infrastructure, but they have made long-term investments to upgrade their infrastructure while we have been messing about with ad-hoc proposals.”
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