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Boris broadband promise will be missed -- it is still a significant achievement

·2-min read
BT has confirmed a new sports tie-up with Warner Bros Discovery (BT/PA) (PA Media)
BT has confirmed a new sports tie-up with Warner Bros Discovery (BT/PA) (PA Media)

Sometimes, you can see the point of Boris Johnson.

A Tory pre-election promise was to get “gigabit-capable” broadband – dead fast internet – to every home and company in the UK by 2025.

Being Boris, he hadn’t done the maths on whether this was likely or even feasible. He may not even have known that for this to happen he needed BT to buy into his premise.

To his good fortune, BT boss Philip Jansen was up for it. The old BT would have demurred, muttered about cost and shareholders and complained, with some justification, about our bureaucratic planning laws.

Jansen, who is so rich from his private equity career that he doesn’t have to worry what anyone thinks, got in line, told Boris he could do it. Let’s make it a national project, let’s show what we can really do if we are ambitious, said Jansen.

The headlines on this issue lately have been about the Tories quietly ditching this 2025 pledge, in realisation that it is not going to get there in time.

The public accounts committee found in 2022 that the government was far too reliant on BT Openreach and Virgin Media O2 to reach its goal, as if that wasn’t always going to be the case.

The great digital divide remains, said MPs.

The thing is, as a deadline 2025 is plainly going to be missed. But we’d have been nowhere near it if the PM hadn’t been, let’s assume, cluelessly optimistic about the prospects of meeting that target.

And we will get there much sooner than we would have otherwise.

BT today says ultra-fast broadband is in 7.2 million premises. Another 3 million, or 4 million if Jansen gets his way, will come on stream each year from now.

We won’t get to where Boris wanted by 2025. But we will get there, and it is a significant achievement.

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