UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has confirmed the Conservative administration’s commitment to support the rollout of gigabit-capable broadband in the most difficult to reach 20 per cent of the country.
Presenting his 2020 Budget, Sunak said the government was committing £5 billion to support the rollout of gigabit-capable broadband so that all areas are able to benefit, suggesting this investment will level up connectivity across the UK, particularly in rural areas.
He also confirmed the earlier announcement of the Shared Rural Network agreement between government and industry which would see the government commit up to £510 million of funding, which will be more than matched by industry. This means 95 per cent of the UK’s landmass will have high quality 4G mobile coverage by 2025.
Andrew Glover, Chair of the Internet Services Providers’ Association, described the £5 billion as “a welcome first step”, but suggested that increased funding alone would not allow the industry to get the job done.
“Broadband rollout is largely privately funded and in order to provide industry with a chance to meet the Government’s 2025 ambition, today’s announcements needs to be backed up with further reform on wayleaves, new build legislation, action on street works and further investment into digital and engineering skills. The broadband industry is ready to get the job done, but needs the full support from Government to do so.”
Kevin O’Donnell, European Business Manager, VIAVI Solutions, said that public investment in UK broadband is a welcome further stimulus to not only make the UK economy stronger, but to also make UK businesses more competitive on the European and global stage as technology, and specifically superfast broadband, is a key business enabler. “The budget statement is also welcome news to the whole business ecosystem that supports UK telecom providers, such as the FTTH and wireless contractor companies that support the installation and maintenance of the superfast broadband networks,” he added.