Delivery of Superfast broadband
The Government launched the Broadband Delivery UK programme to provide funding to support the roll-out of Superfast broadband (24Mbit/s download speed) to areas of the UK not being funded directly by commercial providers. As of January 2018, the coverage of Superfast broadband had reached 95 percent of UK homes and businesses, up from 45 per cent in 2010.
This is delivered at a local level by the Hampshire Superfast Broadband team at Hampshire County Council, with a programme of investment that will see more than 100,000 Hampshire premises have Superfast broadband availability provided by public funds. It is planned that coverage in Hampshire will have reached 97.4% by the end of the programme in 2020.
More details are available at www.hampshiresuperfastbroadband.com
It is important to note that although the project provides the technology and infrastructure that will allow local residents and businesses to access a Superfast broadband service, they will not automatically get the service when the equipment in their area has been upgraded. Residents will need to order it from an Internet Service Provider.
Ofcom, the communications regulator, has accredited various price comparison organisations so individuals can check which companies can provide internet services (for specific postcodes) and the relative costs of the various packages on offer.
More details are available at www.ofcom.org.uk/phones-telecoms-and-internet/advice-for-consumers/costs-and-billing/price-comparison
For anyone in the category of premises that will not be reached by the public programme of investment, they may be able to consider a Community Fibre Partnership with a company such as BT Openreach. The smallest project in the county has been completed for a group of only six premises, so it is not always necessary for a large group of residents to come together for a scheme to be viable.
And for a limited time, Hampshire County Council is offering a Match Funding scheme whereby the Council will provide up to half of the funding to match money raised by communities to install and maintain a Superfast broadband connection in their area (subject to a cap on the Council’s contribution of £1,650 per property).
More details are available at www.hampshiresuperfastbroadband.com/alternative-solutions/cmfs/
In March 2018, the UK Government decided, by way of a legislative order, to introduce the Universal Service Obligation (USO) to ensure people in the UK have the right to request a decent broadband connection, with a specification set at a mimimum of 10Mbit/s and an upload speed of at least 1Mbit/s. Under the USO legislation, homes and businesses will be able to request a connection up to a cost threshold of £3,400.
For the most expensive to reach properties where the costs of providing a USO connection exceed this amount, consumers will need to consider other options, which could include paying any excess costs, doing some of the deployment work themselves to help reduce costs, exploring if any local funding is available to help them meet these costs, or to consider commercially available satellite broadband as a backstop solution.
Ofcom is now responsible for implementing the USO and we are planning to publish their first document on implementation in the summer of 2018.
Broadband speeds and mobile phone coverage
Residents can check mobile phone coverage and broadband speeds for their postcode using Ofcom’s online mobile and broadband checker service https://checker.ofcom.org.uk/
If broadband speeds of 24Mbps+ are not yet available, people should register their interest by entering their postcode on the homepage of www.hampshiresuperfastbroadband.com and they will then automatically be notified when infrastructure in their area has been upgraded.
Plans for the future
The Government is investing £1.1bn in digital infrastructure to support the next generation of fast and reliable mobile and broadband communications for consumers and businesses. The National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) will invest the money by 2020-21, with a focus on priority areas that are critical for improving productivity: economic infrastructure, housing and R&D.
The Government is also investing £200 million to fund a programme of local projects to test ways to accelerate market delivery of new full-fibre networks. The first stage of a £200 million Local Full Fibre Network scheme to help bring the UK’s fastest and most reliable Gigabit connectivity to businesses, communities and public buildings was launched in September 2017.
Plans for a £25 million ‘5G Testbeds and Trials’ competition to select projects for funding in 2018-19 has also been announced, which will support the next generation of digital infrastructure. Part of the £740 million National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF), it will help to ensure the UK’s position as one of the world’s leading countries in the development of 5G technology by attracting inward investment to the UK, creating new opportunities for businesses and improving productivity.
100% business rates relief is also being introduced for operators who install new fibre on their networks. The move will incentivise operators to invest in the broadband network, increasing speeds for both businesses and homes.
Table from Ofcom's Connected Nations Update report - Spring 2018