Full fibre broadband nationwide to promote digital connectivity
Digital connectivity will increasingly drive the country’s economic growth, competitiveness and quality of life. Digital communications makes it easier for customers and suppliers to find each other and exchange goods and services. In future, innovations such as artificial intelligence and the internet of things will bring new applications that rely on digital connectivity, from driverless cars to increased use of virtual reality.
Government needs to make a decision on full fibre now to avoid the risk of the UK being left behind in years to come. Full fibre will deliver benefits to current broadband even if the expected demand growth does not materialise. Enhanced digital connectivity will also facilitate the development of smart infrastructure: infrastructure with digital connections, enabling more efficient management and maintenance.
The Commission recommends that government should set out a nationwide full fibre connectivity plan by spring 2019, including proposals for connecting rural and remote communities. This should ensure that full fibre connectivity is available to 15 million homes and businesses by 2025, 25 million by 2030 with full coverage by 2033. To achieve these targets:
Ofcom should promote network competition to drive the commercial rollout of full fibre, by deregulating where competition is effective and guaranteeing a fair bet on risky investments before regulating any uncompetitive areas
Government should part subsidise rollout to rural and remote communities, beginning by 2020, starting with the hardest to reach areas and community self-build
Government and Ofcom should allow for copper switch-off by 2025
Government and Ofcom should take action to cut the cost of full fibre deployment including: Government should ensure the processes for obtaining wayleaves and connecting new builds are the same for digital infrastructure as other utilities by 2019; Local government should designate ‘digital champions’ to improve telecoms processes such as street work permissions and access to publicly owned assets; Ofcom should monitor the accessibility of Openreach’s duct and pole infrastructure by levels of usage.