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2nd Queen’s Speech Echoes Gigabit Broadband and Internet Plans

Thursday, December 19th, 2019 (12:13 pm) - Score 4,390

The Queen has today, for the second time since October, carried out the annual State Opening of Parliament, which repeated roughly the same list of Government policy plans as her prior visit. Once again this included planned legislation to support the UK roll-out of Gigabit broadband and internet safety related regulation.

As usual the speech itself is historically more of a ceremonial affair, which often only serves to feed the media with a tiny sliver of new information on forthcoming Government policy and precious little else in the way of detail. On the other hand you do sometimes get a few surprises and as usual we keep an eye out for anything to do with broadband or telecoms.

NOTE: The returning Conservative government has a significant majority of 80 seats and that will make it easy for them to pass new legislation.

The fact that we already ran through all of this two months earlier, with largely the same party of government, means that the prospect for surprises this time around is even more diminished than usual. In that same vein we’ve opted to skip the usual recap (check out our prior article instead) and jump right to covering any broadband, mobile or internet related points from today’s event.

The Queen said:

“To support business, my government will increase tax credits for research and development, establish a National Skills Fund, and bring forward changes to business rates. New laws will accelerate the delivery of gigabit capable broadband [Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill, Telecommunications (Connectivity) Bill]. To ensure people can depend on the transport network, measures will be developed to provide for minimum levels of service during transport strikes.

My Ministers will develop legislation to improve internet safety for all [Online Harms Bill].”

The speech was followed by the release of more detail, which we’ve pasted below. As before the Government has once again chosen not to state the specific 2025 target for making “gigabit-capable” broadband available to every UK home, which last time forced the Culture Secretary, Nicky Morgan MP, to confirm that this was still the goal (here).

Due to the above we find it surprising that the Government has continued to replace 2025 with the vague “as soon as possible” language below. Aside from that not much has changed since the last speech.

Broadband legislation

New laws will accelerate the delivery of gigabit capable broadband.”

The purpose of the legislation is to:

● Support the roll out of gigabit-capable broadband across the UK to achieve nationwide coverage as soon as possible so people can reap the huge benefits of the fastest, most secure and resilient internet connections.

● Make it easier for telecoms companies to install broadband infrastructure in blocks of flats.

● Ensure that all new homes are built with reliable and fast internet speeds. The main benefits of the legislation would be:

● Faster speeds (one gigabit, i.e. 1,000 megabits per second) boosting productivity, driving innovation in our public services and giving people the fast connectivity they need to reap the benefits of the digital revolution.

● Increasing download speeds with a gigabit-capable network, which are more than 30 times the speed of superfast broadband and will allow you to download a High Definition film in fewer than 45 seconds.

● Faster and more reliable internet connections for people living in flats. New measures will also ensure that all new homes are built with the fastest connectivity available, increasing certainty for businesses investing in gigabit speed networks.

The main elements of the legislation are:

● Creating a cheaper and faster light-touch tribunal process for telecoms companies to obtain interim code rights (or access rights) for a period of up to 18 months. This will mean that they can install broadband connections where the landlord has failed to respond to repeated requests for access.

● Amending legislation so that all new build homes are required to have the infrastructure to support gigabit-capable connections.

● Requiring developers to work with broadband companies to install gigabit-capable connections in virtually all new build homes, up to a cost cap.

Territorial extent and application

● Telecommunications policy is a reserved matter. The Bill’s provisions would extend and apply to the whole of the UK, with the exception of legislative proposals relating to housing, which are devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Other measures

● To ensure that no part of the country is left without next-generation broadband, the Government has recently pledged £5 billion to support the rollout of gigabit-capable broadband in the hardest to reach 20 per cent of the country.

● In the two years to 2021 the Government have already committed £650 million to stimulate the market to deploy gigabit-capable connections in urban and rural areas through:

○ The £400 million Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund.

○ The £200 million Local Full Fibre Networks Programme which funds locally-led full fibre projects.
○ The £200 million Rural Gigabit Connectivity Programme which will deploy gigabit capable broadband to local hubs in rural areas, starting with primary schools.
○ The £67 million Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme.

● To further support the commercial environment for investment, the Government laid its Statement of Strategic Priorities for Ofcom in Parliament, formally confirming the regulation needed to maximise the deployment of gigabit-capable broadband.

● The Government has committed to spend £1.8 billion to bring superfast broadband to over 96 per cent of the country, with thousands of homes and businesses connected each week.

● Not all areas of the country have decent broadband. To tackle this the Government has introduced the Universal Service Obligation of 10 megabits per second. This is due to come into force in March next year and will give every home and business the legal right to request a decent connection up to a Reasonable Cost Threshold of £3,400 per premise.

Key facts

● One in seven people in the UK live in flats or apartments and it is estimated there are 450,000 blocks of flats in the UK.

● 40 per cent of operators’ requests seeking access from a landlord receive no response.

● It is estimated that operators will be able to connect an extra 3,000 properties a year as a result of the Leasehold Property Bill.

● 22 per cent of new build developments in 2019 have been built without a gigabit-capable connection.

● Around 40,000 new homes were built in 2019 without full fibre.

● A gigabit-capable network connection is one that is capable of achieving 1,000 megabits per second, i.e. 1 gigabits per second, download speeds.

Once again Queen also said her “ministers will develop legislation to improve internet safety for all,” which reflects their existing proposals under the April 2019 Online Harms White Paper. As we said earlier, none of the above is particularly new but it does confirm the direction of travel and the key details will hopefully emerge once the new National Infrastructure Strategy (NIS) is published in the coming weeks or months.

We should add that the new Online Harms Bill will also reintroduce the porn block (age verification) system, which has been heavily criticised over concerns about privacy and effectiveness (here).

Online Harms

My ministers will develop legislation to improve internet safety for all.”

● Britain is leading the world in developing a comprehensive regulatory regime to keep people safe online, protect children and other vulnerable users and ensure that there are no safe spaces for terrorists online.

● The April 2019 Online Harms White Paper set out the Government’s plan for world-leading legislation to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online. The Government will continue work to develop this legislation, alongside ensuring that the UK remains one of the best places in the world for technology companies to operate.

● The proposals, as set out in the White Paper were:

○ A new duty of care on companies towards their users, with an independent regulator to oversee this framework.

○ The Government want to keep people safe online, but we want to do this in a proportionate way, ensuring that freedom of expression is upheld and promoted online, and that the value of a free and independent press is preserved.

○ The Government is seeking to do this by ensuring that companies have the right processes and systems in place to fulfil their obligations, rather than penalising them for individual instances of unacceptable content.

Next steps:

● The public consultation on this has closed and the Government is analysing the responses and considering the issues raised. The Government is working closely with a variety of stakeholders, including technology companies and civil society groups, to understand their views.

● The Government will prepare legislation to implement the final policy in response to the consultation.

● Ahead of this legislation, the Government will publish interim codes of practice on tackling the use of the internet by terrorists and those engaged in child sexual abuse and exploitation. This will ensure companies take action now to tackle content that threatens our national security and the physical safety of children.

● The Government will publish a media literacy strategy to empower users to stay safe online.

● The Government will help start-ups and businesses to embed safety from the earliest stages of developing or updating their products and services, by publishing a Safety by Design framework.

● The Government will carry out a review of the Gambling Act, with a particular focus on tackling issues around online loot boxes and credit card misuse.

Key facts

● There is a growing threat presented from online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. In 2018, there were over 18.4 million referrals of child sexual abuse material by US tech companies to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Of those, there were 113,948 UK related referrals, up from 82,109 in 2017.

● Terrorists also continue to use online services to spread their vile propaganda and mobilise support. All five terrorist attacks in the UK during 2017 had an online element. There is majority support among adult internet users for increased regulation of social media (70 per cent), video sharing (64 per cent) and Instant Messaging services (61 per cent).

● What the Government has done so far:

○ The joint DCMS-Home Office Online Harms White Paper was published in April 2019. The Government also published the Social Media Code of Practice, setting out the actions that social media platforms should take to prevent bullying, insulting, intimidating and humiliating behaviours on their sites.

○ In November 2018 the Government established a new UK Council for Internet Safety. This expanded the scope of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety, and was guided by the Government’s Internet Safety Strategy.

○ The UK has been championing international action on online safety. The Prime Minister used his speech at the United Nations General Assembly to champion the UK’s work on online safety.

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Mark Jackson
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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34 Responses
  1. Avatar CarlT

    So China has the Golden Shield – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Shield_Project – are we in for the Boris Barrier.

    The illiberal nature of these policies is alarming. Still if it’s the will of the people to be babysat online it is what it is.

    On another matter I note mention of gigabit download speeds only. VM have a strong part to play here.

    My overriding vibe is one of concern. If I wanted to live in a planned society like Singapore I would have moved there. I am deeply concerned by the government’s authoritarian attitude and that so many people apparently desire it.

    • Avatar chris conder

      There are too many snowflakes Carl. Senior civil servants are usually senior because they have been promoted out of the way. The younger ones have more sense, and maybe there is hope now for real fibre, but pressure is still being applied for control of the ether. The government should have listened to us 10 years ago when we pointed out that fibre was needed, we also said it is only education (most teachers still don’t know much about IT) that will keep us safe, and government cannot protect us from our own stupidity. They are still trying to take control of the internet. Yes, scary.

    • Avatar SymetricalAccess

      Agree with both of you, education is key, it’s not rocket sience. Makes you wonder what agendas are behind these obviously pointless and damaging placebo measures.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      @CC- what is the B4RN experience with bandwidth used, upload v. download etc?

    • Avatar beany

      Could of been worse could have ended up Jezza-net.

  2. Avatar Meadmodj

    Is “Echoes” the right term? Yes a lot about ease of access but the way I read it “accelerate the delivery of gigabit capable broadband” has replaced any 2025 target and the background briefing notes reiterates existing initiatives, the so called “Superfast” achievement and the forthcoming but inadequate 10Mb USO. Boris has told his cabinet they must deliver on promises so the speech appears to strike a much more realistic approach and elsewhere it refers to a 10 year period of change for the country inferring two terms of office. A lot different to the “fibre sprouting” and by 2025 deadline.

    All I ask for is that any state funding (such as LFFN) goes into areas that need Fibre not conurbations that already have fibre competition.

    As CarlT highlights VM capability, upload policy, openness and pricing will have a significant impact on what happens next.

  3. Avatar SymetricalAccess

    Upload seems to be a dirty word these days. It’s no good ignoring the biggest part of the problem. An 8 lane motorway split into 7 lanes one way and one single narrow rutted dirt track the other isn’t a solution.

    Education is the key staying safe on the internet. Trying to make the internet safe is imoprtant but impossible to acheive 100%, to think it is is foolish abd much more dangerous than anything on the interenet.

    • Avatar Andrew L

      The bulk of us don’t need or want upload to be the same as download.

      Typical use is streaming video (lots down, little up)
      Gaming (little up, little down)
      App / Game / OS updates (lots down, little up)

      The majority of us, the majority of the time are much more likely to saturate our download rather than our upload.

    • Avatar Phil

      “The bulk of us don’t need or want upload to be the same as download.”

      This is the same as saying we don’t need 1Gig broadband, which we don’t. The point is by having the higher upload speeds a use for them will arrive later, which has always been the case with broadband, speed increase first and then the services to use it tend to follow.

      The only reason upload speeds are so far behind download speeds is a limitation of the technology and not based on what we need. Cable (Virgin Media) was never designed for uploads, it is a broadcast system, and cable TV has struggled all over the world to provide better upload speeds and still does struggle currently in the UK. Plain old telephone cable just can’t cope with providing high upload speeds due to all the quiet weaker signals converging back in one place. G.Fast can work symmetrically but what you add to the upload speed you have to subtract from the download speed. GPON as used by Openreach and some others for FTTP is another broadcast system, so also struggles to have the same upload bandwidth available as download. Again the technology is arriving to resolve that limitation on GPON.

      Problems with slow upload speeds manifest themselves as issues with downloading when others are using the connection, so the bigger the swing to download speeds compared to upload speeds means it is very easy for another user in the house to be uploading (slowly) some files or photos or video calling for download speeds to then take a drop due due to the two way aspect of TCP and acknowledgements. Many people are now streaming constantly to the cloud with security web cams etc so what little upload bandwidth they have could is constantly in use.

      Where the technology is designed for symmetrical speeds (e.g. point-to-point fibre from alt nets), they are provided.

    • Avatar JmJohnson

      Phil… so glad you mentioned ACK packets… been part of my argument regarding larger upload bandwidth for ages.
      As for Andrew saying we don’t need larger uploads… he seems to have missed the largest requirement… Cloud Storage… with cloud providers now providing excess of 5TB and the average device storage of 1TB you’ll find people uploading/downloading a lot more as they come to rely on it.

    • Avatar beany

      Is this your imaginary Acronis cloud account which you pay silly amounts for again?

    • Avatar Andrew

      Just to clarify I said we don’t need better upload speeds, I said we don’t need symmetrical.

      I’m not sure ACKs should really be an issue, QoS takes care of this – and yes CCTV cameras are one of the use cases that are more up than down.

      Regardless of CCTV and cloud storage we still are in a situation where for the vast majority of people, the vast majority of time bandwidth is more down, than up.

  4. Avatar Phil

    “and will allow you to download a High Definition film in fewer than 45 seconds.”

    These sorts of usage examples I find very contrived. In the vast majority of cases we never download a HD film or movie, we stream them, therefore it can take as long as the time it takes to watch it, an hour or more.

    It would be more relevant to say, “and will allow a household to watch up to 50 HD movies simultaneously with no buffering.” Of course everyone would then think that is over kill for a family of a few and wonder what the point of 1Gig broadband is.

    • Avatar Spurple

      I frequently download to portable devices or games consoles and like to have gigabit speeds.

    • Avatar JmJohnson

      Lets take Sky as an example… does it stream or does it download ?
      Generally Streaming is the real-time viewing of data as it’s sent to your with the sender only sending enough for you to consume in say 10s and it doesn’t save it.
      Sky on the other hand gives you the impression of streaming but it sends the whole media file whilst letting you view it after a dynamic buffer has been received and saving it for later consumption.
      From what I’ve seen of Virgin I assume they do the same.

      So I disagree… when you include 2 of the largest On-Demand content providers then using the term download is appropriate.
      Also… not everyone is technical… when explaining something to someone with a limited understanding then it’s best to simplify as much as possible… now this does irk some people within the group the statement is targeted at but it’s not for your benefit… it’s for the person who isn’t familiar with jargon.

    • Avatar CJ

      If the primary purpose of widespread gigabit broadband is to enable streaming of multiple UHD streams and online gaming then let’s not pretend it will have a huge economic benefit, except to Netflix and the other content providers who get a subsidised content delivery network.

      If on the other hand the primary purpose is to enable more remote working and increased productivity, then upload speeds are just as important as download speeds.

    • Avatar spurple

      Shall we pretend then that the hordes of highly paid people employed by the IT industry to build and manage the networks that enable widespread video streaming don’t contribute to the economy?

    • Avatar spurple

      How about the vastly expanded content creation industry that has been enabled by the explosion in media creation and consumption enabled by said video streaming platforms?

    • Avatar beany

      “It would be more relevant to say, “and will allow a household to watch up to 50 HD movies simultaneously with no buffering”

      Oh god like your argument that we all need gigabit uploads, we now all sit on our fat behinds watching 50 movies at once and thats why gigabit is the future. I have never heard such idiotic logic for needing faster upload or download speeds in my life.

    • Avatar chris conder

      Well said Phil. Upload is crucial. Beanie, read what Phil said again. TF, dunno, I am not staff, so can’t give you stats, I am the community (volunteer) side.

    • Avatar The Facts

      @CC – why do you say upload is crucial?

    • Avatar Meadmodj

      GPON is in principle Asymmetric.
      Internet usage is predominantly down and this will remain as we go for higher resolution TV/Audio.
      Future equipment upgrades will provide higher speeds but the underlying design remains.
      To get faster upload then the ratios have to be low.
      An ONT port may be technically 1 Gig but that is not necessarily what it will provide in practice up or down.
      Ratios of OLT to ONT are typically 1:32 although lower ratios where it is known business premises or in rural where an extra few km are important. Most rollouts are not using cabinets burying splitters so although ratios can be re-engineered there will be a reluctance to do so due to cost.
      For mass rollout networks there will be SME services (with SLA/QoS settings) intermixed with consumer.
      Like all resources (such as water) experience tells us that unless there are controls it leads to waste and bad practice.
      So the reality is that it is far more honest to offer the FTTH as an asymmetric service rather than promise that all customers will get 1 gig simultaneously which for download is unlikely and for upload dishonest unless the OLT is set to prioritise to a given QoS.
      What most consumers want is an effective broadband speed at moderate cost. What speed is classified as effective will change as our consumer use and expectation increases. Providers may offer different down/up ratios going forward and/or “boost to” options but these will be a premium product.
      By 2025 my view is it that many consumers will be happy with a reliable and consistent 300Mb/80Mb (easily achieved on VM HFC and OR FTTP).
      Those promoting symmetrical 1 gig will hit contention issues going forward particularly if high take up of 1 Gig up in particular streets and may have to apply controls to ensure service commitments of the 32.

    • Avatar GNewton

      @chris conder: It amazes me to see there are still people here who don’t understand the importance of upload speed. In the States, companies like Verizon have been doing symmetric fiber for years now!

    • Avatar CarlT

      ‘Most rollouts are not using cabinets burying splitters so although ratios can be re-engineered there will be a reluctance to do so due to cost.’

      Most rollouts are using cabinets. Only Openreach are putting splitters underground and they are in chambers so can be relatively easily accessed. They aren’t being directly buried in earth.

      To split a PON isn’t that difficult or expensive as long as the fibre or duct to blow the fibre down is there to do so – where you previously had an OLT port feeding a splitter with, say, 4 ports feeding distribution network you instead have 2 OLT ports each feeding 2 ports and you pad out the optics with an attenuator to adjust for signal strength change.

    • Avatar CarlT

      Just as an addition I’m not sure you realise how cheap PON splitters are. Joe Public can pick up a 16 port splitter for less than $10 and a 32 port for less than $15.

      The big expenses are the OLT port and getting another fibre there in the first place. Either way splitting PONs can and is done. It’s cheaper than using XGSPON or XGPON to provide additional capacity as no need for more expensive ONTs.

  5. Avatar JAMES BODY

    So – nothing said about mobile coverage?

    The Shared Rural Network agreement has yet to be signed off – as does the 5G Rural Connected Communities Project – could this be why Nicky Morgan has been dragged back as Secretary of State – to ensure a quicker turn around in this area?

  6. Avatar Rahul

    I cannot wait for the new legislation’s to be implemented! Wayleave is a serious problem particularly in urban areas and privatized buildings. If you don’t force installations of Fibre cables into buildings, it is highly likely that it will take eternity before it gets installed.

    Typical example like in my case, I’m a Hyperoptic Champion. 4 years I have been struggling with my management team called EastEndHomes they won’t agree Fibre saying it wasn’t a priority at this stage. They said “If we are going to do it, we’ll do it with another provider, not Hyperoptic.” I’ve discovered that they rejected BT Openreach last year when it was a plan for FTTP for both my building and the other ones owned by same management.

    As a result, I have now been upgraded to FTTC instead in October after 10 years of waiting here in Central London. And all buildings owned by EastEndHomes that were rejected for FTTP are in the process of being upgraded to a FTTC cabinet instead. This is a real shame, indeed. In January 2020 another fellow building will go live for FTTC.

    While our 2 other properties owned by Tower Hamlets Homes (Council) have agreements granted with minimum fuss and zero nagging. Sometimes council buildings get wayleave passed more easily than private estate building ownership. Not sure if this has something to do with government initiative.

    4 out of 10 buildings fail wayleave permission and indeed that’s 40%. That means more than half of the 450,000 blocks of flats in the UK will fail wayleave agreements until drastic and forceful measures aren’t taken. Patience can only go so far.

    • Avatar TheTruth

      Why don’t you just move if your landlords are that bad?

    • Avatar CarlT

      Ah, Rahul. Been expecting you.

    • Avatar dee.jay

      Heh, CarlT – I was thinking the exact same

    • Avatar Rahul

      @TheTruth: That’s because I’m the leaseholder, not the landlord. The estate management team cannot be booted out. There is no election system to replace a privatized building management team. Plus landord does not really apply to blocks of flats like in individual house ownership.

      That’s the problem we have all over the country. If you have a Technical Estate Manager and a Housing Estate Manager who is potentially in their office for another 10 years, chances are the wayleave agreement will never pass until these people get replaced/ and or you change the law to force wayleave agreements to happen.

      Individual houses are more expensive to upgrade but don’t have this same bureaucratic red tape associated with blocks of flats. In this particular case the landlord has the power to decide yes or no. But you can be the landlord of your flat in a residential block but are still powerless to get Fibre into your building.

      I’m very confident that soon an implementation will be enforced for the installation of Fibre into buildings. If the government are indeed serious in achieving Full Fibre for all, I believe they will change the law to make that a reality.

      At least I finally have Fibre to the Cabinet so I won’t complain too much, but the disappointment is that I had to wait 10 years for FTTC instead of FTTP!

  7. Avatar Timeless

    give it a few months and they will conveniently forget about this, only took them a week to backtrack on employment law and minimum wage rise promises, so l doubt this will be kept either.

  8. Avatar Petee

    What about 10g , docsis 4.0 over cable. That will bring upload speeds alot and seems possible even with legacy mixed fiber copper system

  9. Avatar Roger_Gooner

    @JmJohnson: “Lets take Sky as an example… does it stream or does it download ?
    Generally Streaming is the real-time viewing of data as it’s sent to your with the sender only sending enough for you to consume in say 10s and it doesn’t save it.
    Sky on the other hand gives you the impression of streaming but it sends the whole media file whilst letting you view it after a dynamic buffer has been received and saving it for later consumption.
    From what I’ve seen of Virgin I assume they do the same.”
    Sky downloads as users’ broadband connections are uncertain due to some factors which are out of Sky’s control. VM however controls the whole of its network and so streams all VoD. Some is done via broadband when it’s apps like YouTube, the rest is legacy VoD via DVB-C from servers at the regional headends. There is some use made of broadband for remote control commands like pause and play which are sent as small IP packets up to the servers whether by the DOCSIS modem in a STB such as the TiVo or by the hub if it’s a V6.

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