Optical Fibres

Department for Culture Media and Sport written question – answered on 16th December 2014.

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Photo of Eric Ollerenshaw Eric Ollerenshaw Conservative, Lancaster and Fleetwood

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, what recent discussions he has had with Ofcom on the regulation of BT Openreach and other companies' fibre access costs.

Photo of Eric Ollerenshaw Eric Ollerenshaw Conservative, Lancaster and Fleetwood

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, what assessment he has made of the potential effects of regulating BT Openreach and other companies' fibre access costs on his Department's plans to increase superfast broadband coverage.

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy (Jointly with Department for Business, Innovation and Skills), Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy (Jointly with Department for Culture Media and Sport)

I have regular discussions with Ofcom and the subjects discussed include all aspects of the regulation of the telecoms markets.

A range of infrastructure providers is playing a part in extending the coverage of superfast broadband across the UK. In general, the most effective and efficient way to provide superfast broadband on the Openreach network is to upgrade existing cabinets to fibre. This is feasible for most of the 95% of UK premises that are covered under the existing BDUK programme.

Openreach is not the only provider of Next Generation Access (NGA) infrastructure – i.e. fibre - in the UK. Virgin Media and KCOM (in the Hull area) and a number of other network providers are also rolling out their own networks to provide broadband or superfast broadband services. The smaller providers have smaller networks, usually where Openreach and Virgin Media’s NGA networks are not present. Many operators, such as Sky and TalkTalk, provide services using the BT Openreach network.

There are also a range of community-led broadband projects across the UK, many of which have been supported by Government funding and receive technical, procurement and legal support from Government. There are also projects that are community owned, built and operated; for instance Broadband 4 the Rural North (B4RN) The Honourable Member’s own constituency; as well as small commercial investors in fibre and wireless technology broadband.

Since 2011, BT has been obliged to offer passive infrastructure access (PIA) to operators across the UK for the deployment of access networks. In Ofcom’s Fixed Access Market Review, published in June 2014, the Regulator decided to maintain this obligation on BT.

Ofcom is responsible for regulation of the UK telecommunications markets and the Government's broadband programme is consistent with the UK regulatory regime operated by Ofcom. Ofcom’s regulatory approach has been to encourage commercial investment by allowing for pricing flexibility to incentivise commercial providers to roll out fibre to the maximum extent. By incentivising providers and achieving maximum commercial coverage, there are fewer areas in which the Government has had to become involved.

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