Boost for broadband in Autumn Statement

In his Autumn Statement, Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond announced a range of initiatives to boost Britain’s fibre broadband networks.

Those announcements included:

  • A full 100% business rates relief for new fibre-to-the-premise (FTTP)broadband network builds for a five-year period from 1 April 2017 to boost rollout to more businesses and residential areas
  • As per pre-statement leaks, £400m will be set aside for a new Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund, at least matched by private finance, to invest in new fibre networks over the next 4 years. The idea is to help deliver greater full-fibre access to millions more premises by 2020
  • Funding for a coordinated programme of integrated fibre and 5G trials, to keep the UK at the forefront of the global 5G revolution; further detail will be set out at Budget 2017 as part of the government’s 5G Strategy
  • Funding for local areas to create a larger ‘fibre backbone’ for the UK, prioritising full-fibre connections for businesses and bringing together public sector demand. This will be delivered in association with local areas

Commenting on the announcements Andrew Ferguson from said: “The announcement of five years’ 100% relief on the business rates that fibre infrastructure attracts might actually encourage more pure fibre deployment than the £400m investment fund would achieve on its own.”

Ferguson did counter that, however, by saying that it is highly likely that nothing serious will happen until firms can be sure what will happen with the BT Group and Openreach, a decision for which is expected from Ofcom expected in December.

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