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New Paper Weighs the Risks and Opportunities for UK Broadband After Brexit

Thursday, September 21st, 2017 (9:02 am) - Score 950

The Carnegie UK Trust has published a new paper that highlights some of the potential risks and opportunities that Brexit could bring for digital consumers in the United Kingdom, such as how it might impact the provision of new broadband and mobile networks (e.g. state aid rules).

The paper, which is authored by William Perrin (founder of ‘Talk About Local‘ and trustee of the ‘Indigo Trust‘ and ‘Good Things Foundation‘), typically covers all of the familiar areas and also carries a few interesting insights into the impact of Brexit upon Mobile roaming regulation, EU state aid rules and UK public funding for broadband roll-out projects.

The purpose of this paper isn’t so much to provide a definitive position on these issues but rather to serve as a starting point (guide) to highlight a wide range of public policy challenges.

Martyn Evans, CEO of the Carnegie UK Trust, said:

“The consequences of the UK leaving the EU is highly unpredictable across a wide array of public policy issues. A great deal will depend on the detailed arrangements that are established to determine the UK’s future relationship with the EU. It follows that the impact of Brexit on the wellbeing of UK citizens is uncertain. We have therefore commissioned a series of experts to consider the impact of Brexit on the Trust’s three key themes: digital futures, fulfilling work and flourishing towns.

In order to ensure that analysis is meaningful in a context where there is such a high degree of uncertainty and change, we have sought to place a reasonably narrow set of parameters on the work. The focus here is to consider which aspects of digital policy, regulatory oversight and legislation are currently established, or heavily influenced, at EU level and are therefore potentially most likely to be the subject of change when the UK leaves the EU.”

Interestingly the paper notes that there does not currently appear to be a “strong citizen or consumer voice” involved in helping to shape the United Kingdom’s approach to the digital sector post-Brexit, although this is easily a complaint that could be similarly echoed across various other sectors.

Elsewhere it’s suggested that Brexit could enable the UK to adopt “looser state aid rules“, which might make it easier for local authorities to pick from a more diverse range of smaller broadband suppliers. On the other hand this could also result in more overbuild of existing networks and a greater acceptance of closed instead of open access networks, which all have their pros and cons depending upon the situation.

Key Points

1. The current approach by the UK Government is to focus on promoting, and delivering, stability in the digital sector, post-Brexit. This is welcome in terms of providing certainty and reassurance for businesses, citizens and consumers.

2. In the fast moving digital sector markets and regulation don’t stand still and a more ambitious approach by government is likely to be required, setting out a vision for how Brexit can actually enhance digital outcomes for citizens and consumers in the UK.

3. There does not currently appear to be a strong citizen or consumer voice involved in helping to shape the UK’s approach to the digital sector post-Brexit and steps should be taken to address this gap as consumer input can provide valuable insight to key issues.

4. There may be opportunities to make retail communications markets work better for citizens by returning to regulation for services such as broadband and mobile phones, drivingdown prices and improving service quality where competition isn’t working well. The UK post Brexit could choose to return to retail price regulation (as it is considering doing in the energy market), a form of regulation which the EU appears to be about to ban.

5. Rural broadband delivery in the UK may be improved by looser state aid rules post-Brexit – although the flexibility the UK will have on state aid can be overstated, and local authorities will need more expertise in this area if these opportunities are to be realised.

6. UK citizens enjoy various rights on data and surveillance attained through the EU and it will be important to ensure these are retained following the UK’s exit from the EU.

7. There are opportunities for the UK to be a place for digital innovation post-Brexit, bringing new products and services to citizens, but this requires careful public policy management to ensure an appropriate balance is struck between innovation and risk.

8. The possibility of a decline in an international digital workforce in the UK, combined with the UK being a smaller market for products and services, brings risks of higher prices and reduced choice for citizens after Brexit.

9. Regulation in the digital sector is a reserved matter, it is currently unclear how the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Governments will interact with the UK Government in order to approach this issue.

As ever the big problem with talking about anything to do with Brexit is that we don’t yet know precisely what the outcome will be and that wall of uncertainty acts as a barrier to constructive proposals. Check out the full paper.

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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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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12 Responses
  1. Bob2002 says:

    I suppose Brexit is going to become clearer fairly soon after the EU responds to May’s Florence speech on Friday, though I lean towards Mervyn King’s position at this time –


    1. CarlT says:

      Yeah he’s spot on. The UK does indeed have to be ready, which makes it all the more ridiculous that we aren’t even close, and in some regards haven’t even started making contingency plans.

  2. TheFacts says:

    How much of the UK will be unserved by the time this gets anywhere?

    What is ‘international digital workforce in the UK’?

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      A reference to foreign workers (mostly from the EU) in the digital sector.

  3. CarlT says:

    This comments section is going to be good.

  4. adslmax Real says:

    I start to worry that our UK government are unfit purpose to run our country when leaving BREXIT. The UK government has failed our system many times and will get worsen, the future NHS will be a highly risk could go into private one day as we all have to pay just like American did.

    1. Steve Jones says:

      I’m not wholly sure what that has to do with broadband policy in the UK, but never mind. Everybody needs a forum to let off steam I suppose.

  5. Marty says:

    Most people don’t like governments secret tactics toward brexit. If we are stuck in limbo with nothing concrete signed and sealed. With all parties agreeing to it instead of promoting there own self interest before the end of next year. Britain will truly be in the dustbin.

  6. Raging Optimist says:

    I don’t get why everyone I speak to is so opposed to a 2nd referendum. Essentially, we’ve been sold a thing we haven’t seen, who’s nature we don’t know, involving a contract that’s not written yet… for a price still to be determined!

    … and nobody wants us to have the last word on whether or not we buy it ?

    Given the scope we’ve allowed the capitalists, this is going to be a slaughter.

    God, we are SO F’ing screwed : /

    1. chrisp says:

      and you claim to be a “Raging Optimist” with comments like:
      “God, we are SO F’ing screwed : /”.

      maybe time to change your handle?

    2. Ultraspeedy says:

      “I don’t get why everyone I speak to is so opposed to a 2nd referendum.”

      Should we apply that to any voting process?

      “Essentially, we’ve been sold a thing we haven’t seen, who’s nature we don’t know, involving a contract that’s not written yet… for a price still to be determined!”

      Sounds pretty much like any government voting process to me

      “God, we are SO F’ing screwed : /”

      We would still be screwed, punished and basically ignored if we suddenly decided to change our minds and stay.

  7. Doctor Colossus says:

    With May constantly harping on about internet control (allegedly to fight terrorism and extremism), I am most worried about point 6 above – and I say that as a person who is a part of the “international digital workforce” and one who has to live with sh*t rural broadband. 🙂

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