Superfast broadband “must be available to all”

Europe’s largest engineering and technology organisation, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), has warned that the UK government must provide universal access to super-fast broadband for all people in the UK, as usage continues to grow across all age groups.

Prof Will Stewart, Chair of the IET Communications Policy Panel, said: “Superfast and extensive coverage are not alternatives and both can be, and should be, achieved.

“The key is getting new infrastructure, particularly fibre, close to the user, and this is expensive in installation costs. Once that infrastructure is in place it can also carry super-fast as well as ‘ordinary’ broadband, and should not need renewal again for a generation at least.”

Prof Stewart adds that although Internet usage is lower for those over 65, this effect is rapidly disappearing.  According to the latest Ofcom research  from July 2012, the proportion of adults aged 65 to 74 with home internet access rose by nine percentage points to 64 per cent between 2011 and 2012 – the largest rise among all age groups.

“This still leaves them behind younger groups but they are catching up much faster than the population is ageing so pessimism may not be entirely justified,” concluded Prof Stewart. The IET is Europe’s largest professional body of engineers with over 150,000 members in 127 countries.

According to the Boston Consulting Group, the Internet economy accounts for over 8 per cent of the UK’s gross domestic product, a higher share than any other country in the G20. This is forecast by the McKinsey Global Institute to rise to over 12 per cent by 2016, with the Internet accounting for around a quarter of our economic growth.

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