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.

Alert me about debates like this

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

That was me talking about what we have done so far—just wait until I talk about what we need to do in the future. I strongly agree with the hon. Lady that we need to do much more, which is what the bulk of my speech is all about. Indeed, it is what the Bill is all about. If she holds the view she espouses, I look forward to her marching through the Division Lobby later in support.

Precisely on the point raised by the hon. Lady, of course 7% of premises do not yet have access to superfast connections, so we are introducing the new broadband universal service obligation so that, by 2020, everyone has access to a minimum level of service. That will provide a vital safety net and ensure that nobody is left behind as the country takes these strides towards better connectivity.

Yet even this is not enough. Demand marches on. People’s needs and expectations have risen further, and will continue to rise. Yes, we need to celebrate what we have done so far, but we must also deliver deeper connectivity, now and in the future, to support a competitive market and to ensure that we get this infrastructure in the ground. We must work now to deliver the next generation of technologies, 5G and fibre over the decades ahead. This Bill is part of a suite of actions we are taking to boost Britain’s fibre. We will break down barriers to better broadband for business and get quicker connectivity for consumers.

First, in the Digital Economy Act 2017 we reformed the electronic communications code, which regulates agreements between people who provide sites and the digital communication operators. That new code will make it easier for electronic communications infrastructure to be deployed, maintained and upgraded. We are currently finalising the regulations needed to support the new code, which we plan to commence later this year when the work has been completed.

Secondly, with the separation of Openreach from BT we will see a more competitive market, with an Openreach that serves all customers well, rather than just focusing on BT. That decision has been largely welcomed by BT’s competitors and is the result of intense negotiations between Ofcom and BT. It is the right outcome and will ensure that Openreach delivers not just for its customers but for the whole country.

Thirdly, we are supporting the fibre roll-out through a £400 million digital infrastructure investment fund to help competitors in the market to reach scale and to deliver. The fund will improve access to commercial finance for alternative developers for full fibre infrastructure, helping them to accelerate roll-out plans and compete with the larger players.