Telecommunications Infrastructure (Relief from Non-Domestic Rates) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:09 pm on 10th July 2017.

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Photo of Ranil Jayawardena Ranil Jayawardena Conservative, North East Hampshire 8:09 pm, 10th July 2017

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that copper’s capacity is insufficient for today’s challenges. We must make sure that we deal with not only today’s challenges but tomorrow’s, so we must ensure that there is more fibre than we even need today. We do not want to end up, perhaps in five or 10 years—not a million miles away—with the fibre we install today not being good enough for the challenges of tomorrow.

In turning to the challenges of tomorrow, it is important to consider mobile communication, which is enabled by the fibre broadband that links the mobile masts. Fibre provides the connectivity, via the masts, to users who perhaps want to do their banking on their phones, as several Members have said. Deploying mobile infrastructure remains challenging at times, particularly in remote locations or among difficult topography. It is important for us to consider the viability of such initiatives as we move from 4G to 5G, and as we do so, perhaps we could find a remedy for those communities that have not even moved to 3G or 4G. We must ensure that those initiatives are viable, so that no one is left behind. Mobile telecommunications can be an excellent way of providing mobile broadband—fast broadband—to rural communities, instead of running fibre to those rural homes. It could be that part of the solution, part of dealing with the final 4%, is to ensure that fibre is run to mobile masts, which are then accessible to those rural communities.

Reducing operating costs is critical to ensure that the potential economic viability of these sites is considered properly. I am sure that the Government will consider that in the deliberation that they will doubtless have in the time ahead. Targeted business rates relief to enable fibre cabling to be rolled out to those hard-to-reach areas would be particularly helpful in notspots that have been badly served by telecoms to date and could be much better served by telecoms in future.

It is important to prioritise sites such as railways and motorways, as mentioned by my hon. Friend Helen Whately and by my hon. Friend Vicky Ford. They demonstrated that to have connected commuters, which was the term used by my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford, we need fibre to be run alongside railways.