Telecoms chiefs call on Boris Johnson to slash regulation to meet full-fibre broadband vow

Posted On: 
3rd August 2019

Boris Johnson's pledge to deliver full-fibre broadband “for all” by 2025 is only possible if the government removes “significant regulatory barriers”, telecoms leaders have claimed.

BT, Sky and Virgin are among members of the signatory organisations.

During the Tory leadership campaign, the Prime Minister called the previous Government’s previous target of fibre-optic broadband for all households by 2033 as “laughably unambitious”.

He also expressed vowed to achieve a full-fibre rollout “in five years at the outside” if he were elected as leader.

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But in an open letter to the Prime Minister, seen by the BBC, industry leaders indentify a string of problems causing delays.

The letter is signed by the Internet Services Providers Association, the Federation of Communication Services and the Independent Networks Co-operative Association, whose members include Google, BT, Sky, Gigaclear, CityFibre, Hyperoptic, Virgin and Vodafone.

They warned that fibre cables are currently taxed as if they were business buildings, which the industry claims harms investment.

Meanwhile telecom providers are currently required to obtain so-call “wayleave agreements” to install infrastructure on private properties - but landlords are often unresponsive. The industry wants the government to force landlords to provide access if required.

The group is also demanding a response to a government consultation on whether new-build homes should incorporate high-speed internet connections - with the lack of response so far meaning many new homes are being build without the provisions for fibre optic broadband.

They also warn of potential engineering labour shortages because of Brexit, with telecoms companies calling for more money to be committed to training.

"Work needs to start now, and 100% fibre coverage requires a 100% commitment from government,” the letter, which has also been addressed to Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan, says.

A spokesperson for the Department for Culture Media and Sport said: "We are pleased industry shares our ambition to turbo-charge the economy by delivering world-class, gigabit-capable broadband across the country as soon as possible.

"The Government is committed to creating the right opportunities for investment and speeding up the rollout of the required digital infrastructure."