To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, pursuant to the Answer of 1 July 2020 to Question 64332 on Broadband and Mobile Phones, what assessment his Department has made of the efficacy of the strategy to ensure access to full fibre broadband through promoting network competition and commercial investment.
The government set out its high level strategy for delivering nationwide coverage of gigabit capable broadband in the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (FTIR), published in July 2018. As part of the review, the government commissioned an independent report by Frontier Economics to consider different competitive models for achieving these aims against a set of criteria including overall coverage, pace of deployment, quality of service delivered, total cost and feasibility.
The FTIR concluded that the best way to achieve the government’s aims was to promote competition and commercial investment where possible, and intervene where necessary. The review estimated that c.80% of the country could support competitive networks, and that the remaining c.20% may need further intervention to deliver gigabit-capable networks.
Since the FTIR, the government has supported measures to enhance competition in the telecoms market, including Ofcom regulations to open up access to Openreach’s ducts and poles network. The government has also focused on reducing barriers to commercial deployment, including through the Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill currently before Parliament. In addition, we have committed a record £5 billion to support the deployment of gigabit-capable broadband in the hardest to reach 20% of the country.
We have seen a considerable increase in gigabit capable coverage since the FTIR was published. Full fibre coverage has increased from 5% of the UK in May 2018 to 14% as of May 2020, according to Ofcom’s latest Connected Nations figures. Gigabit-capable coverage is even higher as a result of Virgin Media’s upgrades to its cable network, with ThinkBroadband now reporting that over a quarter of the UK can access gigabit-capable broadband.