Budget 2018 promises more full fibre
The Chancellor made us wait for the detail on what was happening in the broadband world in the latest Budget but the Red Book that lays out all the detail is actually pretty sparse on detail of what will be happening, but that is normal, the key part is that schemes and pilots and the overall budget is now known.
4.13 Full fibre networks – The government set out its strategy to meet the goal of a nationwide full fibre network by 2033 in the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review published in July 2018.5 Full fibre networks are much faster, more reliable, and cheaper to operate than their copper predecessors. The Budget sets out the next steps to accelerate the rollout of full fibre:
- the Budget allocates £200 million from the NPIF to pilot innovative approaches to deploying full fibre internet in rural locations, starting with primary schools, and with a voucher scheme for homes and businesses nearby. The first wave of this will include the Borderlands, Cornwall, and the Welsh Valleys
- alongside the Budget, the government is publishing consultations to mandate gigabit‑capable connections to new build homes and speed up the delivery of upgraded connections to tenants, making it quicker and easier for communications providers to roll out full fibre networks
- the government is also announcing that Suffolk is the first local area to be awarded £5.9 million of funding from the third wave of the Local Full Fibre Networks challenge fund, enabling next-generation full fibre connections to key public buildingsExtract from Budget 2018
What has been announced pretty much follows what was talked about ahead of the budget and put as simply as possible it looks like rather than the LFFN scheme the new one is more focussed on schools as the anchor around which full fibre providers can deploy a FTTP network out to the community. Though this is not what we would call a native roll-out but rather seems to be based on a voucher scheme, which is possibly more popular with the providers than the general public, since the public mainly just want to order online without the complication of vouchers. For those wanting to see public NOT going into the BT bank account the new £200 million allocation is probably good news, though there will have to be questions around whether this is just a way of reducing costs of existing services that are fast enough for a school i.e. there needs to a careful eye maintained to see that schools are not simply switching from one Ethernet provider to another under the scheme to save money. Of course those running schools should seek the best value for money but using a stimulus fund to achieve that seems unusual.
Those who remember the Digital Britain 2009 report may recall the concept of a digital pump for each community and the LFFN and this latest £200m scheme seem to be realisation of that ambition that some have been campaigning for. The question is whether this will actually translate in to a Fibre to the Home service that the average home will want and actually order.
The consultations on new build homes and changes to help tenants we will cover in a second article since some of our data has been mentioned, but we need to expand on this a lot due to potential for confusion over what our data is actually telling people versus what the consultation suggests.