What did the Budget 2016 do for digital economy infrastructure?
The Budget has sometimes been when lump sums for investment in broadband infrastructure have been announced, but the March 2016 Budget had no such presents for the broadband world. The full Budget 2016 Report has a few little gems of hope that show that digital infrastructure has not been totally overlooked by Westminster.
"1.252 Affordable broadband is essential for a connected household sector but pricing in this market can be opaque. The government expects quick action to ensure the price of broadband provision is as clear as possible. New proposals from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) will ensure broadband adverts do not mislead. A new cost comparison measure for telecoms services will be developed by Ofcom this year.
1.330 The government will distribute £14.5 million in grants to extend ultrafast broadband coverage in the South West – £4.5 million more than the £10 million allocated at the Spending Review. As part of its assessment of how the UK can become a world leader in 5G, the National Infrastructure Commission will use the South West as a case study.
2.320 5G strategy and tool – The government will deliver a 5G strategy in 2017, based on the National Infrastructure Commission assessment of how the UK can become a world leader in 5G. The government will also support the development of a network planning tool, to be trialed in Bournemouth. (67)
2.321 Broadband Investment Fund – The government will, in partnership with the private sector, establish a new Broadband Investment Fund. The fund will operate on a commercial basis to support the growth of alternative network developers by providing greater access to finance.
2.322 Digital standards in construction – The government will develop the next digital standard for the construction sector – Building Information Modelling 3 – to save owners of built assets billions of pounds a year in unnecessary costs, and maintain the UK’s global leadership in digital construction.
2.323 Ultrafast broadband grant scheme – The government will distribute £14.5 million in grants to extend ultrafast broadband coverage in the south west.
2.324 Open address data – The government will provide up to £5 million to develop options for an authoritative address register that is open and freely available.Extracts from Budget 2016
The ASA/Ofcom changes have already been announced, though precise detail is still to emerge, but difficulties will emerge as invariably mandated rules tend to be designed for the largest operators and may cause confusion for smaller operators who access the various wholesale operators and have not gone down the bundling route where the phone and broadband must be from the same provider.
Bournemouth as a trial location for a new network planning tool is a little odd, as it has a large chunk of Gigabit coverage already, and extensive Virgin Media ultrafast and Openreach VDSL2 coverage, so 99.5% superfast coverage (this excludes Gigler) and 87.2% ultrafast (>100 Mbps from Virgin Media and Gigler).
A Broadband Investment Fund was mentioned back in the Autumn Statement and it seems is still waiting to be fleshed out and it is impossible to assess the impact until some idea of how it will work and how it will change the current purely commercial or community funded route many alt-nets are taking.