This means that every single building in the UK will have high-speed optical cables in just six years, a tall-order considering that, according to Ofcom, only 7% of properties currently have full-fibre broadband.
The fibre optic challenge
Industry insiders have responded to the Prime Minister’s statement in an open letter that confirms reaching this ambitious target is achievable, but only if the government tackles the current problems that delay installation. It says, ‘work needs to start now, and 100% fibre coverage requires a 100% commitment from the government’ and goes on to list four policies that require attention in the next twelve months in order for the new target to be achieved:
- The abolition of the ‘wayleave agreement’, the permission companies need in order to access land and buildings to install cables, as property owners are often unresponsive to requests, causing long delays.
- An overhaul of the ‘fibre tax’. At the moment, business tax rates are applied to the fibre infrastructure industry which some believe discourages investment.
- Ensure all new-build properties have fibre ready cables installed, as currently they are not required to do so.
- Invest more money in the industry to train engineers as this new target is likely to require more skilled workers than is currently available.
Ambitious broadband policy needs more investment
The government’s new target has been welcomes by Openreach, the people responsible for maintaining the UK’s digital network infrastructure, but they too have recognised how ambitious the proposal is, ‘upgrading the entire UK network is a major civil engineering challenge’ and that the government needs to create ‘an environment that encourages greater investment.’
In response to the letter, a spokesman for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said, ‘the government is committed to creating the right opportunities for investment and speeding up the rollout of the required digital infrastructure.’
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