Government announced yesterday that £440m will be reinvested in deploying superfast broadband connections to 600,000 extra premises. The cash boost is a result of efficiency savings (£150m) and the BDUK clawback mechanism (reinvestment of subsidies when people take up superfast connections covered by the programme – meaning that BT will be releasing £292m).
The National Infrastructure Commission today reported back to Government on how to ensure that the UK can become a leader in the deployment of 5G and take early advantage of the applications that it may enable.
The core finding of the NIC is that mobile connectivity is essential and that the market, as currently structured, will struggle to meet these two objectives on its own and that the whole of Government must work with industry to deliver on them.
The European Commission published yesterday its proposals to achieve its vision for a European Gigabit society with ambitious targets from 5G coverage to access for all European households (rural and urban) to internet speeds of 100Mbit/s by 2025. Legislative and policy proposals include a review of the EU regulatory framework for telecoms, an Action Plan on 5G connectivity and new financial instruments as well as additional public funding for a WiFi voucher scheme that will benefit 6000 to 8000 local communities in the EU by 2020.
Ofcom published last week a summary of responses to its April 2016 consultation on the design of the broadband universal service obligation (USO). The Government proposed last year to introduce a USO of 10Mbit/s available to all premises and tasked Ofcom to produce technical advice and recommendations to support its design. 115 responses to Ofcom’s call for inputs (CFI) were received, highlighting various perspectives and approaches to achieve universal decent broadband coverage in the UK.
In July 2015, the Culture Media and Sports (CMS) Committee launched a public inquiry into the coverage, delivery and performance of superfast broadband in the UK and progress made in improving digital connectivity. The report published today concluded that the “UK has done well” compared with other EU countries on the delivery of superfast broadband thanks to a competitive market. However, it also raised concerns about the willingness of the BT Group to invest in maintaining, upgrading and supporting Openreach’s fibre infrastructure.
The Government have today introduced the Digital Economy Bill to Parliament as part of its ambition for the UK to be the most digital nation in the world. The Digital Economy Bill (HC Bill 45) sets out the framework for the introduction of a Broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO), includes new powers for Ofcom, seeks to reform the Electronic Communications Code and also sets out new consumer rights.
The Digital Economy Bill was announced in the Queens Speech today, intended to “make the UK a world leader in digital provision – a place where technology ceaselessly transforms the economy, society and government”. For the telecoms sector it aims to make it easier to deploy communications infrastructure whilst empowering consumers.
The European Parliament published this week a briefing referencing the difficulties in revising the EU Universal Service Directive, which sets the criteria for a universal service obligation in the telecoms sector. As part of its review of the EU Telecoms Regulatory Framework, the European Commission is considering extending the scope of the Directive to include broadband. However, the briefing makes clear that setting EU-wide conditions for the introduction of a Universal Service Obligation (USO) for broadband is not without challenges.