Telecommunications Infrastructure (Relief from Non-Domestic Rates) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:35 pm on 10th July 2017.

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Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport 5:35 pm, 10th July 2017

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Everyone in the House knows the importance of being connected, whether through traditional means or, increasingly, through digital connections. Whether the issue is the next generation of broadband technology, better mobile phone coverage or preparing for the next generation of 5G, the Bill is all about improved connectivity. Whether we are talking about fixed networks in the ground or the next generation of mobile and wireless connectivity, what people care about is how well connected they are—good download and upload speeds, reliability, latency, and how quickly they get reconnected when there is a problem. It is a problem that we can all identify with, Madam Deputy Speaker. May I say what a great pleasure it is to see you in the Chair for the first time from the Dispatch Box, Dame Rosie?

Our task is to prepare for a world of considerably greater demand for digital connectivity. Just as Moore’s law states that the cost of computing halves each year, Nielsen’s law has seen the doubling of data demands every two years. World-class connectivity is important for people to function in the modern world, whether at work or at play. It will continue to transform our public services and bring efficiencies there, too, and it is important for all sectors in our economy. The challenge is always to stay a step ahead of need. We need the digital infrastructure that can support that, providing ubiquitous coverage so that no one is left out, and sufficient capacity to ensure that data can flow at volume and with speed and reliability to meet the demands of modern life.

All these connections rely on Britain laying more fibre-optic cable. Whether fibre all the way to the premise—to each home and business—or the fibre that underpins the mobile network, all modern connectivity runs off fibre. Around five years ago, the nation took a strategic decision to roll out high-speed broadband based largely on a part-fibre, part-copper network. Superfast broadband delivered in that way is today available to 93% of UK homes and businesses. We rank first among the big European states for superfast connections, and we are on track to reach 95% by the end of this year.

In mentioning that, may I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend Mr Vaizey? He did so much—he never lets me forget how much—to deliver the first-rate, high-quality superfast broadband connectivity to homes and businesses around the country that now allows us to say that 93% of people have access to, but do not necessarily take up, superfast broadband.