UK industry questions new PM’s full fibre pledge

Created August 5, 2019
News and Business

A campaign pledge by new UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to deliver country-wide full fibre access by 2025 has been questioned by three influential industry bodies. In an open letter to the occupant of Downing Street, the heads of the Internet Services Providers Association (ISPA), the Federation of Communication Services (FCS) and the Independent Networks Co-operative Association (INCA) support Johnson’s vision for a full fibre Britain, but state that ambition alone is not enough to overcome the scale of the considerable task ahead.

The signatories to the letter state that a concerted effort is needed from Government to remove significant regulatory barriers in the immediate term. Removing these barriers will enable better use of private and public investment to roll out fibre further and faster. In particular four key UK policy areas that require urgent attention are identified:

  • Fibre Tax: Fibre cables are still taxed as if they were business buildings. Significant reform to this fibre tax would provide an immediate boost to the industry and significantly unlock more ambitious rollout plans
  • Wayleaves: Plans to allow telecommunications providers access to buildings and land to deliver broadband services where landlords are unresponsive need to be implemented as quickly as possible – too often unresponsive landlords delay rollout in urban and rural areas
  • New builds: Too many new build homes are still being developed without fibre connectivity as a standard and plans to mandate fibre to all new builds should be pushed forward
  • Skills: National fibre rollout is one of Britain’s greatest engineering challenges. Investment in digital and engineering skills needs to be prioritised and the three organisations’ members need to be able to compete for global talent to fill the ever-increasing skills gap.

The document concludes: “Industry is ready and willing to work with yourself, your Government and the new Digital Secretary to ensure that Britain’s connectivity is fit for the future. But that work needs to start now, and 100% fibre coverage requires a 100% commitment from Government.”

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This article was written
by John Williamson

John Williamson is a freelance telecommunications, IT and military communications journalist. He has also written for national and international media, and been a telecoms advisor to the World Bank.