Broadband coverage

Prime Minister and Digital Secretary praise broadband companies

The Prime Minister and Digital Secretary met with the CEOs of the major broadband organisations today and praised the industry for creating more than 22,000 jobs over the last year. They welcomed the commitment from the organisations to help the nation build back better from the pandemic with gigabit broadband rollout, and underlined the government’s support to help industry’s efforts to connect as many homes and businesses as possible by 2025. The government has increased its forecast and new figures show rollout will reach 60 per cent by the end of 2021 (up from 50 per cent), putting the UK on track to be among the fastest build rates in Europe. (more…)

Government’s Plan for Growth

Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng today published a joint open letter to businesses on the Government’s Plan for Growth.

The Plan for Growth builds on the best of the Industrial Strategy from 2017 and supports the transition to net zero by 2050. It sets out the government’s path to invest in three pillars – infrastructure, skills, and innovation. The focus is creating and supporting jobs, helping to drive growth, and seizing opportunities from Britain’s independence. The Build Back Better Business Council has been convened to draw on the expertise of industry and government to ensure that the plan for growth is delivered successfully and in partnership with business. Today’s meeting will look at the innovation pillar and will discuss the government’s upcoming Innovation Strategy, due to be published in the Summer. (more…)

Project Gigabit (Phase 1b): Open Market Review request for information

The Building Digital UK (BDUK) team has launched an Open Market Review (OMR) request for information (RFI) to help identify areas needing government intervention. This follows an earlier OMR and RFI for Cumbria. Early market research is an essential part of the team’s engagement with industry to shape public investment. The results of this OMR will provide a better understanding of the broadband infrastructure already in place, and where there are plans for investment over the next three years. The RFI will enable BDUK to make a significant step in the design of the areas to be targeted by the new procurements and contracts. (more…)

Gigabit plans for Scotland

Under Project Gigabit which was announced today, the UK government has pledged a further £2 million to extend investment to NHS Scotland sites in isolated areas of the country.

91 GP surgeries and community hospitals in rural parts of Scotland – including remote island services on Arran, Jura, Lewis, Mull, Shetland and Orkney – will benefit from gigabit broadband upgrades. A further £1 million has also been pledged to extend full fibre to even more schools, hospitals and doctors’ surgeries across the Highlands. Public buildings will have faster internet speeds from a £7.3 million total investment through the government’s Local Full Fibre Networks scheme. In the northern isles of Yell and Unst in Shetland, work as part of a £2 million project to connect 21 schools, council buildings and other public sites to fibre broadband has now been completed. Up to 37 sites are expected to receive connections in March with all due to completed by March 2022.  (more…)

Government launches ‘Project Gigabit’ 

The government has announced ‘Project Gigabit’, its mission to deliver gigabit-capable broadband across the UK. The project will be a series of phases, with the first phase providing one million hard-to-reach buildings with gigabit coverage and new funding for gigabit vouchers. An extra £210 million worth of vouchers will be released to help those with slow speeds, and another £110 million will connect up to 7,000 rural GP surgeries, libraries and schools. Up to 510,000 homes and businesses in Cambridgeshire, Cornwall, Cumbria, Dorset, Durham, Essex, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Tees Valley will be the first to benefit as part of the project, with contracts for these first areas going to tender in the spring. (more…)

Ofcom publishes the outcome of its Wholesale Fixed Telecoms Market Review

After launching its consultation in January 2020, Ofcom has published a statement ‘Promoting investment and competition in fibre networks – Wholesale Fixed Telecoms Market Review 2021-26‘ in which it identifies BT as having market power in the provision of physical telecoms infrastructure, and wholesale markets underpinning broadband and leased line services (except in Central London). New regulations apply to BT from April 2021 until March 2026.  (more…)

The Chancellor’s Budget and The Mayor’s London Plan

The Budget announcement included the confirmation of the new UK Infrastructure Bank to be based in Leeds and supported by an initial £12bn of capital investment, the new Help to Grow scheme and the new super-deduction.

What we know about the Infrastructure Bank is that it will provide financing support across the UK, offering a range of financing tools including debt, hybrid products, equity and guarantees to support private infrastructure projects. It will begin operating in spring 2021. The Help to Grow scheme will offer up to 130,000 companies across the UK a digital and management boost and will rely on access to digital infrastructure, and a new 130% first-year capital allowance for qualifying plant and machinery assets (super-deduction) with a 50% first-year allowance for qualifying special rate assets. This is expected to cut companies’ tax bill by 25p for every £1 they invest in new equipment. (more…)

UK Gigabit Programme: Cumbria Public Review

As part of the UK Gigabit Programme, BDUK has issued a request for information on a new procurement to extend coverage of gigabit-capable broadband across Cumbria. Last November BDUK conducted an Open Market Review (OMR) which requested information from suppliers regarding details and supporting evidence of any current or planned investment over the next three years in broadband infrastructure in the county. The OMR indicated that planned commercial coverage for gigabit-capable broadband will reach approximately 141,034 premises within the next three years, and will leave the remaining 143,864 premises without access to gigabit-capable broadband. (more…)

BDUK Superfast Programme evaluation

The DCMS commissioned Ipsos Mori to carry out a State Aid evaluation of the UK National Broadband Scheme which was established in 2010 to help extend high-speed broadband connectivity to areas, including those that were not expected to benefit from commercial rollouts. The scheme has reached over 96% of premises in the UK today and provided £2.7bn worth of economic benefits.   (more…)

DCMS consultation on changes to the Electronic Communications Code

DCMS has published a consultation on changes to the Electronic Communications Code (ECC) which is the legal framework underpinning agreements between landowners and communications operators in the UK. The Code was substantially reformed in 2017 to make it easier and faster for apparatus to be deployed, maintained, shared and upgraded in rural areas, balancing the need for digital infrastructure with the rights of landowners and other site providers. (more…)

£940 million of support so far from UK telecoms operators during COVID-19

According to a report by Assembly Research,  the value of the initiatives put in place by the UK telecoms sector amounts to some £940 million, with many likely to remain in place until things return to normal, whatever that may be. Of more than 50 initiatives tracked by Assembly, 20 have directly addressed the needs of the most vulnerable (worth £340m), 19 have been made available to all customers (£250m), six are targeted at key healthcare workers (£220m), and four have aimed to help small and medium-sized businesses recover (£130m). Similar initiatives have been launched around the world which Assembly has been tracking on a country-by-country basis since the start of the pandemic.

 

Public Accounts Committee report: Improving Broadband

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has published its report Improving Broadband. It states that the revised target of at least 85% gigabit-capable coverage by 2025 is challenging and there is a risk that the very hardest to reach premises will be struggling with slow broadband for many years to come. Other concerns include the lack of detail about how the £1.2bn of the £5bn funding will be used to support the roll-out to the hardest-to-reach 20% of the UK’s 31m premises, and the slow progress in delivering the policy and legislative changes sought by industry. The report sets out the PAC’s conclusions and recommendations.

It is worth noting that gigabit-capable broadband networks (FTTP and DOCSIS 3.1) now cover 37.4% of UK premises, which is an increase from 22.1% six months ago.    (more…)

Next steps in Government’s £5 billion gigabit broadband plan

DCMS has launched a technical consultation on its draft procurement strategy for the UK Gigabit Programme setting out plans to connect the first one million homes and businesses and maximise coverage in the hardest to reach 20% of the UK by 2025. The consultation seeks views to help target delivery of the programme, which includes demand-led approaches such as the voucher scheme and the new ‘outside-in’ supply-side interventions. The new procurements for gigabit infrastructure will begin in Spring 2021 and build is expected to begin at the end of 2021/early 2022.

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DCMS Committee publishes 4th report on Broadband and the road to 5G

Evidence to the inquiry found little confidence that nationwide gigabit-capable broadband by 2025 could be delivered, and MPs raised concerns that only 25% of the Government’s £5 billion to support roll-out to the hardest-to-reach premises will be made available during the period. The 4th report by the DCMS Select Committee says it would not be acceptable for Government to fail to meet the less ambitious target through lack of effective planning or inadequate investment. The report also finds the target for majority 5G coverage by 2027 ambitious given the ruling to ban the use of equipment by high-risk vendors.

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