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Utility ducts to be used in super-fast broadband roll out?

Culture secretary says broadband is "increasingly essential"

The government could utilise water, gas and electricity ducts in a bid to create the "best superfast broadband network in Europe".

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt revealed the potential plan and acknowledged fast, reliable broadband is "increasingly essential".

"The biggest cost involved in rolling out new fibre optic networks is digging up the roads. Cut these costs and, straight away, investing in superfast broadband becomes a substantially more attractive proposition," Hunt said.

Hunt also said it was a "scandal" that more than three million homes in the UK can't currently achieve internet speeds of 2Mbps or above.

The Culture secretary called the previous government's plan to offer every Brit in the UK 2Mbps internet access

"Superfast broadband is not simply about doing the same things faster. It's about doing totally new things - creating a platform on which a whole generation of new businesses can thrive."

Hunt said the previous government's plan for universal 2MBbps net access was "pitifullly unambitious".

However, Hunt said the new coalition government would honour the plan, first set out in the Digital Britain report.

The remainder of the digital switchover fund, which aims to ensure all Brits can receive digital TV before the analogue signal is turned off in 2012, will be used to roll-out broadband across the UK.

Hunt also confirmed that the government is considering using the BBC Licence fee to pay for the roll-out of super-fast broadband in the UK.

This is in place of the 'broadband tax' that was proposed by Labour and would have seen Brits with a telephone line forking out £6 per year.

Hunt said the government plans to trial super-fast broadband in three rural areas in the UK, in to identify the best ways to fund and deliver the roll-out.

Broadband Delivery UK, which will oversee the trials, will announce further details and the locations in July.

"These are projects that will not only benefit those living in these areas, but that will provide us with vital information about how we can best target government intervention and make next generation broadband viable in even the most challenging areas," he said.

See also: Four Welsh broadband 'not-spots' to get net access

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