Joining the dots in European broadband

The EC has mapped broadband coverage across the continent. Unsurprisingly Scandinavia and the Benelux does well, but so does much of the UK.

So far, provision of basic broadband is close to the objective, reaching 99.97 per cent. But next-generation broadband has further to go, with just 53.73 per cent coverage across all technologies.

The UK, though, fares reasonably well in an international comparison. The greatest penetration of next-generation broadband is in the Benelux, the Baltic states, and Scandinavia as well as non-EU Switzerland and Norway. The UK comes 12th,  ahead of Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

But the UK also retains a large gap between total and rural next-generation broadband reach. Smaller countries, such as the Netherlands, are doing much better here; Malta has the best broadband coverage overall. The fastest-growing provision of high-speed broadband in 2012 came in Cyprus, Latvia and, perhaps surprisingly given its economic problems, Greece.

For policy makers, the study provides some interesting pointers: progress in broadband access is being made, although there is more work to be done. Some countries, such as Italy, do seem to have quite a long way still to go. In the UK, the disparity between urban and rural access remains an issue.

The current UK coverage map bears more than a passing resemblance to a railway map of Britain in the late nineteenth century. The South East, Midlands and "industrial" North are well served, the fringes less so.

The report will certainly provide ammunition to those who argue that the UK needs more competition, and more investment, in rural broadband services.

Stephen Pritchard is a contributing editor at IT Pro

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