Broadband: Coronavirus

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport written question – answered on 6th August 2020.

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Photo of Dean Russell Dean Russell Conservative, Watford

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what assessment he has made of the role of ultrafast full fibre broadband to the economic recovery after the covid-19 outbreak; and what progress his Department has made on the rollout of that service.

Photo of Matt Warman Matt Warman The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

World class digital connectivity is key to the UK economy and the Government remains committed to delivering nationwide gigabit-capable and full fibre broadband as soon as possible.

A recent study commissioned by Ofcom finds that investment in broadband has had significant benefits to the UK economy and that increased connectivity has a positive relationship with economic growth and productivity. Furthermore a study undertaken for Cityfibre has predicted that the total economic impact of deploying ‘full fibre’ (FTTP) broadband networks across 100 distinct UK city and towns, could reach £120 billion over a 15 year period. In addition, work commissioned by the NIC estimated net benefits from investment in FTTP with 100% coverage of up to £28 billion (in present value terms) by 2050. This is before taking account of the potential for FTTP to deliver wider economic benefits, for example, improvements in productivity.

Good progress has been made over the past year. The latest Ofcom figures demonstrate full fibre coverage has increased to 3.5 million premises (or 12% of the UK), and by 1.5 million premises in the past year. Estimates of gigabit coverage are even higher at over 20% of UK premises, as a result of Virgin Media’s upgrades of its existing network.

The Government is taking action to further reduce barriers to broadband deployment, including through the Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold) Property Bill, which will make it easier to connect properties where there is an unresponsive landlord. The department is also committed to investing £5 billion to deliver nationwide gigabit-capable coverage to the hardest to reach parts of the country, so that no areas are left behind.

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