UK competitiveness hinges on superfast broadband

It will cost "somewhere between £5bn and £15bn" to bring the UK up to par with the broadband capabilities of the rest of the developed world, according to futurologist Peter Cochrane.

This figure could pay for every home and office in the UK to be hooked up to optical fibre and the ultra-fast broadband speeds it provides.

Cochrane said: "On a national scale this is truly an insignificant amount of money. Yet the potential for economic rejuvenation is far greater than for any other sector or investment," he said, referring to the £500bn that some experts have claimed is required to bring the UK's rail, road and air infrastructure up to scratch.

Cochrane, who was head of BT Research in the 1990s, says that despite what is being said by politicians in the run-up to the 6 May general election, Britain is lagging behind a multitude of countries in the global broadband revolution.

"In the mind of government, the UK is at the forefront of the broadband revolution. Unfortunately, we are not even in the top 10. Our ranking is actually somewhere between 20th and 30th," he said.

He estimates that leading economies attribute more than two per cent growth in GDP to broadband expansion. Currently, Korea and Japan offer the best broadband capabilities in the world.

"So the clock is ticking. The UK has to grasp the nettle, stop all debate, and get on with the job."

Cochrane added that in the future, we are going to see manufacturing industry transformed by 3D replicators and networked operations across the planet.

"But without the infrastructure we won't be able to compete," he concluded.

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