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BT’s Openreach, which manages the UK’s broadband infrastructure, has promised to introduce “ultrafast” internet connections to three million premises by 2020.

The company said it was accelerating its plan to run fibre connections directly to homes and businesses.

It will increase internet speeds from 24 megabits a second under superfast broadband to 100 megabits.

The first phase will begin this year, targeting eight cities across the UK.

Openreach, which is owned by BT but operates independently from the company, said Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester would form the first phase of the programme “which will connect up to 40 UK towns, cities and boroughs”.

However, Alex Neill, managing director of home products and services at Which?, the consumer group, said that the UK was far behind other countries in offering high speed internet access through “Fibre to the Premises” connections.

She said: “When you look that 79% of people in Spain have got access to full fibre and yet only 3% of British homes have, clearly consumers will be asking why that is happening, especially when the majority of them have experienced a problem with their broadband in the last year.”

Openreach said it already provided Fibre to the Premises to 500,000 homes, “the majority of which are rural areas”.

Clive Selley, chief executive of Openreach, said: “Our focus over the last two years has been to achieve the government’s target of getting 95% superfast coverage so we have got very good broadband to as many homes as possible. That was the right strategy for the last two years.

“Now having got to 95% the mandate is twofold – fix the last 5% and move on to the upgrade from superfast to ultrafast speeds.”

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