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Businesses Call on Gov to Boost Digital and Infrastructure Investment

Thursday, October 29th, 2015 (12:01 am) - Score 481

A new survey of 722 businesses, which was conducted by AECOM and the Confederation of British Industry, has found that 62% of firms are concerned with the pace of progress on the delivery of infrastructure projects and 53% fear they won’t see the necessary upgrades within the next 5 years.

Unsurprisingly 94% of firms said that the quality of infrastructure is a key deciding factor in planning their investments, which the CBI says demonstrates a “clear consensus on the need to speed up the delivery of projects crucial to the British economy in this Parliament, and to reverse decades of underinvestment and policy change“.

On the ‘Digital’ front (e.g. broadband and mobile) some 72% of firms reported improvements over the past five years, although 59% remain dissatisfied with the quality of their current connections. Greater reliability is also seen as crucial by over four fifths of businesses (84% for fixed line and 81% for mobile connections).

The rapid digitisation of business means improved broadband speeds are another key factor and this is most keenly felt by SMEs, where 78% say it is important for fixed line connectivity.

John Cridland, CBI Director-General, said:

The arteries of modern Britain are working overtime. Whether it’s our creaking railways, clogged roads, and crowded runways, or our digital links and the energy to power them struggling to keep up, businesses now want the Government to deliver the large scale upgrades that it has made ambitious strides towards. The quality of infrastructure is a key factor in firms’ investment decisions, so businesses, communities and the whole country simply can’t afford the cost of inaction.

Business and Government are on the same page on the need to invest in our infrastructure future, as we have seen with the creation of the National Infrastructure Commission. But that hasn’t stopped wrong turns being taken, like the reversal on Government support for renewable energy.

Delivery of key projects – from where we build a new runway to how we power our industry and homes for the future – must be the crowning achievement of this Parliament. That doesn’t just mean taking the tough decisions for the long-term. It means better planning and having the right skills in place to ensure there is seamless continuity from when the green light is given for action to getting spades in the ground.”

The Government’s £1.7bn Broadband Delivery UK scheme is of course busy bringing superfast broadband (24Mbps+) services to 95% of the country by 2017/18, although EU state aid rules make it difficult to use this funding in dense urban areas where the private sector has the prime responsibility for ensuring good connectivity.

Until recently the Government had a half-way house solution for urban areas in the form of their Connection Voucher scheme, which offered grants worth up to £3,000 in order to help smaller businesses gain access to a superfast connection. But that scheme recently ran out of money (here) and in any case it wasn’t available to all corners of the UK.

However there may be some light at the end of the tunnel. The government are due to announce further plans to improve broadband coverage during the forthcoming Autumn Statement / Spending Review 2015 next month, which is likely to focus on connecting the final 5%.

Leave a Comment
14 Responses
  1. Avatar chris says:

    Don’t hold your breath, they will announce the peasants can eat cake. The only solution they have now BDUK have wasted the funding on cabinets and FTTC is satellite.
    What a superfarce. A copper patch up for a few to go a bit faster and millions wasted. 95% will statistically have access to ‘superfast’ but in reality it will be much different. The whole job will be do do properly once someone gets a grasp of physics. We need real competition instead of the farcical competition they say we have, where many ISPs all buy from one wholesaler.

    1. Avatar FibreFred says:

      Many have explained the issues to you but you simply ignore them or fail to understand.

      But keep on posting the same nonsense I’m sure something will change right?

      Maybe b4rn will go UK wide and provide the competition needed

    2. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      FibreFred. Please refrain from making personal attacks towards others.

    3. Avatar TheFacts says:

      Chris – Any evidence that a ‘few’ go faster. Try to use facts, just for once. Do you support £20B? for a full FTTP rollout?

    4. Avatar GNewton says:

      @TheFacts: “Do you support £20B? for a full FTTP rollout?”

      As you might know there are quite a few who would actually support just that, including you yourself. The issue is not money, just think about the the Billions to be wasted on e.g. HS2. Rather, it is the failed policies of both the government and BT which contributed to the current BDUK farce.

    5. Avatar TheFacts says:

      @GN – The government prevent BT rolling out FTTP and there was no discussing about funding FTTP. Exactly why the current rollout is a ‘farce’ is not clear. Without a 100% solution some will not be covered. Simple.

    6. Avatar FibreFred says:

      Simple

      Its a farce (in some peoples eyes) because:

      BT are doing it
      It uses copper for the last few hundred metres

      Better to:

      Provide FTTP to a very small minority, run out of money and “buns” to the rest
      Give the money to altnets and then watch the altnet crash and have to be bailed out or the service simply ceases to be available anymore

    7. Avatar mrpops2ko says:

      The origin of BDUK was the EU funding for digital infrastructure advancement wasn’t it? Wasn’t that also originally meant to be spent on UK cities to upgrade them to FTTP? didn’t both VM and BT veto that citing ‘network overbuild’ – I personally feel that kitting out the cities with FTTP / gigabit lines would have done way more for the UK as a whole than pushing these terrible 80/20 lines. (with like what? 5m people unable to get that or similar speed and instead get like 45/20 attainable)

      I personally think something like London and all the major cities should have FTTP as standard. If you believe the rhetoric that FTTP rollout limitations are all due to the ‘cost’ of rollout, surely incredibly densely populated areas would be the ones that would be first on the list?

      The UK loses out massively and will end up being left behind as a potential digital powerhouse if something isn’t done.

      To further the point above, look at Sweden. Sweden has gigabit FTTP. Sweden’s population size is LOWER than London. (and incredibly more spread)

    8. Avatar GNewton says:

      @TheFacts: “The government prevent BT rolling out FTTP”

      How exactly is the government not allowing BT to do FTTP? Sources?

      Also, why do you think the BDUK is not a farce?

    9. Avatar TheFacts says:

      Should read prevented. In the past.

    10. Avatar MikeW says:

      @mrpops2ko

      The grass is always greener, right? When we hear how good a country is, we tend to assume *everyone* there can achieve those top speeds? Unfortunately, not true.

      What makes you think Sweden has FTTP? In any kind of universal sense?

      The FTTH council figures say around 10% have FTTP, while 20-25% have FTTB. The reason? Because more than half of the country lives in apartments. These are the low-hanging fruit – a broadband phenomena that exists in Sweden as much as the UK.

      Unfortunately, less than 20% of the UK live in flats – making our model of low-hanging fruit completely different. FTTdp to terraced streets would be a better equivalent.

      The PointTopic analysis of Europe in 2012 shows NGA coverage, of mere superfast 30Mbps level, to be relatively low in Sweden: just 56%, at a time UK coverage was about 70%. We’re now at around 87% coverage, and Sweden is?
      http://point-topic.com/free-analysis/mapping-broadband-coverage-sweden/

  2. Avatar Malcolm says:

    @MikeW

    According to these 2014 figures https://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/en/country-information-sweden#summary-of-broadband-development-in-sweden Sweden has FTTP coverage of 56%. The same website puts the UK at 1%; so only just behind Sweden then.

    1. Avatar MikeW says:

      The same website, same year, puts the UK’s NGA coverage at 89% with Sweden at 76%. Not behind on that measure.

      Which measure is relevant? For most people, plain NGA meets their needs, and for those on the wrong side of the digital divide, widespread NGA is more relevant. But for people who want to push things to the limit, like the 5% of VM subscribers who choose their top tier, an FTTH figure matters more.

      As for the FTTP figure for Sweden: the EU website isn’t clear what it considers FTTP to be. My best guess is that it is meant to combine FTTH and FTTB. But how close to reality is it?

      My split (10% FTTH, 20-25% FTTB), a long way short of 56% FTTP, came from the statistics from the FTTH council earlier in 2015. My search was triggered because I know that more apartments in Stockholm are serviced by LAN and HFC cable than by FTTH.

      http://www.ftthcouncil.eu/documents/PressReleases/2015/PR2015_FTTH_Subscribers.pdf

      A year earlier (early 2014), the split reported was 8% FTTP, 19% FTTB. The figures seem consistent.

      Anyway, my point was that Sweden doesn’t have homogenous FTTP. It does have great fibre supply in places, quite a few places. But not everywhere.

  3. Avatar lyndon @ cls says:

    We as a family have just entertained two Americans, one used to work at Nassau. He loved the UK and thought everything small and quaint. However, he found the roads terrifying and vowed not to drive here. He comes from Texas and was bemused that we did not spend money on our infrastructure. A rocket scientist who found driving in Britain to scary, says it all.

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