U.K. plans universal access to high-speed Internet
LONDON (AP) – Britain's government pledged Tuesday to provide universal access to broadband Internet connections as part of a plan to spur the country's technology sector and boost the economy.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Tuesday that high-speed Internet access has become as "indispensable as electricity, gas and water" for most of the public.
"Just as the bridges, roads and railways built in the 19th century were the foundations of an Industrial Revolution that helped Britain to become the workshop of the world, so investment now in the information and communications industries can underpin our emergence from recession," he wrote in an op-ed piece for the Times of London.
Brown's comments came ahead of the release of the government's "Digital Britain" report, which was expected to propose major investments aimed at giving every home broadband access and suggest policies aimed at developing new jobs in the information and communications industries.
More than 70 percent of British adults now have some form of access to the Internet at home, but authorities want to reach those who are reluctant to get online – either because they cannot afford it or because they do not feel they benefit from it.
Broadband access in Britain is patchy, and many households in rural areas can only access the Internet through slow or unreliable connections that cannot be used to watch movies, shop online or access other services that would be useful to people living far from larger towns.
The government now wants to ensure every household can have broadband access at 2 megabytes per second – fast enough to use the Internet to buy products online and use social networking sites like Facebook.
Britain is not the only country to try to expand Internet access. Germany announced a similar plan in December, as part of its first economic stimulus package. India's President Pratibha Patil recently outlined plans to get 40 percent of people in the countryside online over the next five years.