£5 million of British tax payer money to fund super-fast broadband for a tiny Caribbean island despite terrible connection speeds in the UK.
A huge sum of money is being allocated by the Department for International Development (DFID) to build an underwater fibre optic cable to reach Montserrat, a volcanic Island in the Caribbean with a population of 4900 people. Of the £4.94 million allocated to the project, only £50,955 is coming from private sector internet providers each year.
As the ‘Emerald Isle of the Caribbean’, as its dubbed, will enjoy high speed internet by 2018, the UK will continue to struggle with 1.4 million homes without access to sufficiently high enough speeds to meet their needs.
The money for the project will be spent on rewiring the 39 square mile British overseas territory, which lost internet access after a volcanic explosion 19 years ago.
A new submarine fibre optic cable is to be installed linking Montserrat with Islands’ St Kitts and Antigua. It is thought that the Government of Montserrat will inject £150,000 into the project from its European Development Fund – however there is speculation that close to half of this amount has already been allocated to consultancy fees.
Meanwhile, back in the UK, many locals face various problems with connection speeds. In Milnthorpe, Cumbria, where Superfast broadband is accessible, local Barmaid, Lydia Troughton, 18, tells us, “broadband is rubbish here. The download speeds are awful. We have a smart TV with Netflix but after ten minutes it starts buffering all the way through. We shouldn’t be putting money elsewhere when there is so much to do here in getting the broadband working.”
Mike Coulson, 51 and a local Builder in the area commented on the funds being allocated to the tiny Island project, “the foreign aid is just a joke. We should be looking after ourselves first and sort out our own broadband instead of giving it to people in other countries.”
Locals in rural Northumberland have also experienced frustratingly slow speeds. Joanne Heslop, 43 and a Cafe Manger in the area says: “We lose custom because we refuse to put broadband in but we don’t want to pay for a service which is so poor. It makes you angry that you have paid your taxes and the government are sending that money to another country.
The UK’s justification for sending money to assist with the project is that the private sector “perceives the risk/return profile” to be “unworkable without some form of public support” — and hence the British taxpayer will cover the remainder of the bill. The Government insist that in the long term injecting cash into Montserrat now will reduce reliance on UK budgets in the future.
However Tory MP David Morris said recently “it’s concerning that when so many rural areas on the British mainland can’t get online properly, so much cash is going overseas for broadband.”
The reality in the UK is that 1.4 million UK homes and offices are unable to access broadband speeds over 10Mbit/s — the minimum speed required for average household digital needs. This figure is representative of 5 per cent of UK households.