The opportunity for government and the alt-nets to work to together, creating a modern high-quality communications network for the UK economy has never been stronger.
A new government committed to implementing an industrial strategy, a Digital Economy Bill passing through Parliament and Ofcom laying the groundwork to introduce greater competition into broadband infrastructure generates a chance for government to unshackle the alt-nets and enable them to deliver for the UK.
Together with our industry peers and our industry association INCA, which represents a new generation of digital infrastructure builders and internet service providers, we issued clear guidelines to the government of what we feel it needs to do to support Gigabit Britain:
Support pure fibre and set ambitious targets: For a developed nation with one of the world’s leading Internet economies, our broadband targets need to be higher. Yes, we need to address coverage, but we also need to be clear and ambitious on targets for infrastructure and broadband speeds. Other nations are plowing billions into Fibre-to-the-Premises programmes and will soon be reaping the benefits of their enhanced connectivity. We have asked the government to support a target for 80% of businesses and homes to have a pure fibre connection by 2026.
Enable competitiveness in the market: We believe that it is only fair and just that the government creates and maintains an environment where the alternative network (alt-net) companies can compete, survive and ultimately thrive. To achieve this we have asked for a suspension of all business rates on new fibre assets, for the next ten years. We have also asked the government to develop regulation that both encourages both competition and continued private sector investment.
Market transparency: The market incumbents have been marketing their broadband products as ‘fibre’ for years. It’s time that there was clarity in the market. Services delivered over Fibre-to-the-Cabinet are inferior to those delivered via Fibre-to-the-Premises – but when they are both called ‘fibre’ how can the user possibly know and understand this? To enable market transparency we have asked the government to commit to an overhaul of the current advertising guidelines, to give customers much-needed guidance on the connectivity quality they can expect.
The UK currently has the lowest FTTP deployment in the OECD, with around 2%. Us alt-nets are forecast to pass 4.9m premises, or 18% of the UK population, with FTTP by 2020. But we could do more. The government has said that it is committed to supporting future-proofed broadband infrastructure, but in order for this to become a reality it must walk the talk. There is a momentum building with the alt-net community; we aren’t asking for money, just support to achieve our goals of giving the UK the broadband infrastructure it needs.