Updated - 12:53
A meeting took place earlier this week between ISPs, Ed Vaizey (government Minister for Communications, Culture and Creative industries) and the VOA (Valuation Office Agency) to discuss fibre rates that were adjusted at the end of August. The meeting was supposed to occur at the end of last year but was delayed due to the poor weather in December. The Conservative party said before the elections that they would review business rates to encourage investment in next-generation networks but the VOA adjusted rates before any such review happened. Whilst some of the ISP industry was present, a notable omission was Vtesse Networks who have been one of the key players in deploying fibre-based broadband to rural areas, and also in fighting against fibre rates which it deems are unfair.
"In principle we are in agreement with the proposed £8/year levy on residential FTTH connections. However we would welcome some form of differential ratings system which might stimulate investment in the Final Third - perhaps by lowering the rates on backhaul circuits for NGA networks in rural areas.
It is clear that the VOA and BIS and the Broadband Minister are keen to see evidence from real examples before shaping policy in this way. To that end we will be looking at assisting the VOA by providing details from some of the feasibility studies we have undertaken.
BT's reference offer in relation to PIA (access to ducts and poles) is eagerly anticipated. It will be critical that BT's PIA running costs, when combined with non-domestic rates for new build NGA backhaul networks, does not represent a barrier to investment if new fibre is to be installed in rural areas.
Rutland Telecom rasied the possibility of negative rates to stimulate investment in rural fibre. Whilst not dismissed out of hand at the meeting, such a stimulus seems unlikley in the near future."Statement from Rutland Telecom
It's worth pointing out that these are still just discussions and nothing definitive has been decided. We hope these discussions will continue and this can help lead to a more joined-up, fair, solution on fibre rating which helps boost investment and hence deployments in next-generation fibre broadband in the UK.