William Eichler 07 October 2020

Government 'likely' to miss full fibre broadband 2025 target

A Government promise to deliver full fibre broadband to every home by 2025 is likely to be missed unless ministers make radical changes to telecoms policy, think tank warns.

A year ago the Government promised an extra £5bn for the roll-out of broadband.

However, according to a new report by the Social Market Foundation (SMF), the country has a ‘mountain to climb’ to hit the Prime Minister’s target for universal coverage.

Currently full fibre broadband coverage stands at just 14% across the country. The SMF calculated that the UK is lagging far behind other economies on broadband penetration, including Spain, New Zealand and South Korea.

The Prime Minister promised during the 2019 General Election campaign to deliver ‘full fibre broadband to every home in the land’ by 2025.

The SMF said that target will only be hit if ministers adopt a range of changes to broadband policy, including reforms to reduce the telecoms industry’s risks of investing in new networks and to make sure that customers can afford to move onto new services.

New ‘demand management’ measures should be used, according to SMF, where central and local government should commit to purchasing full fibre broadband services for public sector buildings such as hospitals and schools, as a means of providing some ‘certainty of demand’ and encouraging industry investment.

The SMF said the new approach could also include the creation of new New Zealand-style ‘Local Fibre Companies’, jointly run by public sector bodies and private companies, to deliver the broadband in remote and costly areas.

Scott Corfe, SMF research director, said: ‘Delivering the rollout of full-fibre broadband fairly and quickly is hugely important for the UK economy, and all the more so because of pandemic restrictions that have left so many of us working and socialising online.

‘The 2025 target is extremely ambitious and the UK still has a mountain to climb to reach it. Getting there will require some radical changes, especially in how the public sector uses its huge buying power to support demand for broadband and offer the industry some certainty that funding new networks will pay off.

‘To keep the Prime Minister’s bold promise of connecting every household in the country by 2025, minsters should look to the example of New Zealand and ask whether Britain’s Brexit outcome could allow the creation of new local public-private companies to deliver the most expensive final miles of the new network.’

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