High-speed broadband plans needs an update

David Morgan

Policy Manager (RICS)

Universal high-speed broadband will be delivered by a regulatory Universal Service Obligation, with the aim that everyone in the UK will have access to speeds of at least 10 Mbps by 2020. This is the expectation according to a recent Government announcement.

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While the principle is greatly welcomed, given how important broadband is to the country’s economic future, the detail will be crucial. A number of questions need to be answered to reassure businesses and consumers.

Firstly, will there be repercussions for non-compliance? What sanctions - if any - will apply if the target is not met and will they be one-off penalties or increase the longer any requirement goes unfulfilled?

The Government announcement does not detail what rights will individual consumers have. Will they be able to claim redress against broadband companies if the rights the government is promising are not met?

It should be noted that this announcement is a repeat of a promise made in 2015 by David Cameron and again in the 2016 Queen’s Speech. Is it a case of too little, too late?

By 2020 it will be five years since the level of 10 Mbps was stipulated and technology has already marched on. Many developed nations are moving towards a 5G future, whereas this announcement supersedes a government pledge to get 25 Mbps broadband to UK homes and businesses.

The RICS standpoint

There needs to be more ambition to get ahead of the curve in terms of technological development, as opposed to simply trying to keep up. In addition, we feel there needs to be a much greater emphasis on broadband enhancements in housing policy at national, devolved and LDP levels.

High-speed broadband enables growth, new opportunities for expansion as well as jobs that do not depend on being in a specific location. It is about improving connectivity between our economic centres, planning is key to giving people and businesses the control to shape the future of their communities. Superfast speeds will be essential if the government’s ambitious growth targets and productivity improvements are to be met nationwide.

We, therefore, argue that there exists a great opportunity to embed broadband roll out into the planning system as a core concept for planners to encourage growth of the digital economy.

We call on policymakers to begin consultation on the secondary legislation as soon as possible and to consult as widely as possible. RICS stand ready to offer support and engagement on a central topic to the future prosperity of the UK economy.

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