The Spending Review and the Autumn Statement was a politically charged event and while the Chancellor George Osborne did not speak on broadband itself, economies from a digital revolution in the HMRC and online filing of returns hit at the effect the Government is hoping from vastly improved broadband speeds across the UK.
The full written statement that is now available online confirms that the spending of the £1.7 billion of public money to take superfast broadband to 95% of the UK by the end of 2017 will continue there was a small mention of a new broadband investment fund but as this is in the exploration stage no-one will be getting too excited.
"Competition between broadband providers supports the delivery of the fast and reliable broadband a modern, productive economy needs. Innovative approaches to supporting the market will help deliver ultrafast speeds to nearly all premises. The government will explore setting up a new broadband investment fund, to support the growth of alternative network developers by providing greater access to finance. The fund would be supported by both public and private investors, and would be managed by the private sector on a commercial basis."Extract from Spending Review and Autumn Statement 2015
Improving access to finance if done in a way that is easily accessible could boost the number of alt-nets investing in FTTH/P infrastructure and with full fibre being very labour intensive it offers a classic trickle down approach. The ultrafast mention has no clarification of what constitutes nearly all premises, and it is worth remembering that part of the Virgin Media Project Lightning expansion to two thirds of the UK from just under half is underwritten by Government money and it is possible that if a need is seen for ultrafast to go to 90% or higher a similar funding system may be put in place for BT or others rather than the existing gap funding model.
With no mention of the broadband vouchers for the Universal Service Commitment (USC) it is likely that this may be devolved to the various local authorities for piecemeal announcement or may be lead by the DCMS nationally.
Our main disappointment is that nothing was mentioned in terms of allocation of funding for taking superfast beyond 95%, it may be that more analysis of the existing pilot projects is needed or if you want to take a negative view it may be that the 10 Mbps obligation (USO) may take priority.
Mobile broadband does get to see some £550 million set aside for use between now and 2020 to ensure the 700 MHz spectrum is cleared of its existing uses making it available for mobile broadband, whether that is 4G or 5G will depend on the development cycle of 5G. Announcing availability of money means that for example if there needs to be another digital TV help scheme to ensure people know about retuning or the need for new hardware as FreeView shifts downward the money will be available.