Broadband providers in the UK have banded together in an open letter to the PM outlining the changes that need to be made if they are to succeed in achieving his target of full-fibre broadband ‘for all’.
In the letter, they explained to Boris Johnson that the targets are still achievable, but only if certain issues are resolved “within the next 12 months”.
Before winning the Conservative party leadership contest, Johnson had announced that he aimed to provide full-fibre broadband to 100% of properties across the UK much quicker than the government had initially intended.
In an article for the Telegraph, he declared the government’s previous target of 2033 as being “laughingly unambitious” and proposed his own target of delivering fibre to all homes “in five years at the outside”.
The telecoms industry have highlighted four policies that need to be reviewed in order to move things along quicker:
- Wayleave agreement – currently, providers need a ‘wayleave agreement’ in order to get permission to access land and install cables. However, they claim that most property owners are unresponsive – which causes delays. They are urging the government to force landlords to provide access if a tenant has requested a full-fibre connection.
- Fibre tax – as it stands, fibre infrastructure incurs business rates. Broadband providers claim that this should be scrapped as it deters investment.
- New builds – the government is still yet to release information on its investigation into whether new builds should incorporate internet connections capable of high speeds. The industry explains that many new homes are still being built without solutions for fibre broadband.
- Skilled labour – the industry claims that Brexit will result in shortages of the skilled engineers that are required for all the work involved. They say there needs to be more investment in training, and that the industry must be free to “compete for global talent”.
The letter also warned Number 10 that “nationwide full fibre coverage is not a can that can be kicked down the road” and that “work needs to start now, and 100% fibre coverage requires a 100% commitment from government.”
The Internet Service Providers Association signed the letter, along with the Federation of Communication Services and the Independent Networks Co-operative Association, representing the likes of BT, Openreach, Sky, Virgin Media, Vodafone and more.
Openreach, the outfit in charge of maintaining the UK’s digital infrastructure, has warned that despite appreciating he Prime Minister’s ambition, “upgrading the entire UK network is a major civil engineering challenge” and that the government needed to aid the process by “creating an environment that encourages greater investment”.
In a statement to the BBC, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said:
“We are pleased the industry shares our ambition to turbo-charge the economy by delivering world-class, gigabit-capable broadband across the country as soon as possible.”
“The government is committed to creating the right opportunities for investment and speeding up the rollout of the required digital infrastructure.”
The spokesperson for the DCMS also explained that a statement pertaining to the four stipulations made by the industry would be made later.