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Risk to Broadband Roll-out as UK Councils Push for Roadworks Charges

Saturday, Aug 13th, 2016 (8:08 am) - Score 1,064

The Local Government Association, which seems to have spent the past few weeks calling for faster broadband infrastructure (example), has taken a perhaps contradictory position today by calling for councils to get new powers so that they can charge utility companies more money for roadworks.

The LGA, which represents around 370 councils across England and Wales, are calling for local authorities to be granted the power to introduce a daily rate for companies that dig up roads (i.e. a lane rental scheme, where related firms pay up to £2,000 a day for the work they do on busy roads during peak periods), which they claim could be used to reduce traffic disruption by encouraging utility companies to finish their work sooner.

At present most councils (except London and Kent) can only introduce such a scheme after first seeking permission from the Government’s Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling MP. The LGA suggests that if this were to change then they could plough the extra money back into local roads (councils spend a big slice of their maintenance budget on resolving problems caused by bad roadworks).

Councillor Peter Box, LGA Transport Spokesman, said:

“Councils know their areas best and should be able to make decisions about traffic locally. This means they need the option of being able to introduce lane rental schemes without secretary of state approval, which is time-consuming.

Expanding the lane rental scheme nationwide would incentivise utility companies to do the job right first time around and help get our traffic moving again.”

We all hate roadworks, but we also accept that they are a necessary fact of life in order to keep the roads working and utility services flowing. In keeping with that it’s important to remember that a lot of work being done by utility companies is actually funded or at least partly funded by tax payers, such as through the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK scheme.

Meanwhile commercial investment is also helping to expand fibre optic broadband cables around the country, with BT, Virgin Media, Gigaclear, Cityfibre and others all taking part in related projects. However if local councils were to start imposing heavy charges everywhere then there’s a risk that this could push up the price of new infrastructure and make some schemes unviable.

As such it’s important that both the Government and councils take account of this and make exceptions in order to avoid disrupting the roll-out of faster broadband connectivity across the UK. Utility companies / civil engineers might indeed work a bit more efficiently under such a scheme, although they could also end up charging more for their work and that would in turn require additional public investment in order to plug the gap. Source: Sky News.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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