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INCA Sets Out Manifesto to Help Next Gov Boost UK Broadband Rollout

Monday, Jul 1st, 2024 (2:14 pm) - Score 680
fibre optic connection to house

The Independent Networks Co-operative Association (INCA), which represents many of the UK’s alternative gigabit broadband providers, has today published a new manifesto. The document sets out the key recommendations that it thinks the next government will need to implement – within the first 100 days in office – to help boost network roll-outs.

The United Kingdom will this week (4th July 2024) go through its first General Election since 2019 and, as things stand, the polls appear to be indicating that a change of Government is likely to be the outcome. Such a change could naturally have an impact upon policies and approaches to digital infrastructure.

NOTE: See our telecoms focused summaries of the 2024 manifestos from the Conservatives (here), Labour (here), Liberal Democrats (here), SNP (here) and Plaid Cymru (here). We haven’t yet covered the Green Party, Sinn Fein or Reform UK as they didn’t respond to our emails and their manifestos made no mention of broadband or mobile.

Suffice to say that we’ve already seen various internet providers and related organisations responding to this by setting out what they think the next government, whatever form it may take, should be focusing upon. For example, BT’s CEO has called for improvements to planning policy (here) and Mobile UK, which represents Three UK, Vodafone, O2 and EE, echoed similar points (here). Not to mention the ISPA’s effort to promote several strategic priorities and actionable policies (here).

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Today it’s the turn of INCA, which has published its own manifesto document (i.e. a short 4-page summary with five loosely explained bullet points) that includes some of their own recommendations – covering everything from ensuring consumer choice to guaranteeing universal coverage – to help the next Government further transform the digital landscape.

RECOMMENDATIONS: THE FIRST 100 DAYS OF GOVERNMENT

1. Achieve universal coverage by recommitting to Project Gigabit

The next Government must remain committed to the Building Digital UK (BDUK) programme, which has successfully made significant progress in rolling out digital infrastructure, but it is not finished. Universal coverage has yet to be met, and swathes of the country are still languishing in the digital slow lane, which will only exacerbate existing social and digital exclusion.

2. Support competition and consumer choice in the private rental and social housing sectors

BT Openreach have long called for an automatic right to enter private property – particularly Multiple Dwelling Units – to upgrade internal cables from copper to fibre without the need to gain permission from the property owner. However, in order to preserve a fair and rigorous competitive market, the next Government must reject these proposals, which would inherently undermine competitive investment by entrenching BT’s incumbency advantage and providing them with a huge commercial advantage.

3. Minimise disruption and speed up rollout by fully adopting flexi permits

Flexi-permit trials have been shown to be a success for industry, councils and residents, allowing the authority and the network operator to work collaboratively and mitigate concerns around projects overrunning. The next Government should encourage and facilitate the use of flexi-permits to support infrastructure development projects.

POLICY PRIORITIES FOR THE NEXT PARLIAMENT

4. Secure the UK’s digital future by embracing competition and consumer choice

Despite the profound strides forward in the roll-out of full-fibre infrastructure, the economic headwinds over the past few years have dented investor confidence in the UK market. The next Government must provide reassurances, supportive policy and a supportive regulatory environment to deliver a fair and competitive marketplace across the UK to provide Altnets with the opportunity to deliver long term benefits for consumers and businesses, underpinning nationwide economic growth.

5. Launch a public information campaign about the digital infrastructure revolution

We’re in the midst of the biggest telecoms transformation in our lifetimes, and the public are largely unaware. The old copper phone network will be switched off within a couple of years, impacting much more than just voice services. Fibre delivers huge benefits, and a well-informed public will be better able to navigate the coming changes and take advantage.

INCA CEO, Malcolm Corbett, said:

“The digital world we live in demands a fast, reliable internet service connected everywhere, from our homes to hospitals and shops to schools. Without universal access to full-fibre gigabit speed broadband, we cannot achieve the productivity levels and economic performance all parties claim they want.

The latest data shows the impact a healthy market has had towards delivering national coverage, competitive prices, more rural internet connections and customer satisfaction – it’s crucial that the environment that has helped Altnets thrive and deliver these benefits does not go to waste.”

Once again, many of the key talking points above could be said to have echoed those we’ve seen before (e.g. virtually everybody agrees with the need to facilitate the use of flexi-permits) in similar documents from the aforementioned organisations. But there are some exceptions.

For example, INCA raises an issue with Openreach’s push to make it easier for them to upgrade existing MDUs (big residential buildings / apartments) to full fibre, which sounds fair on the surface. But it could also easily ride roughshod over the legal rights of landlords/tenants and hand the incumbent an unfair advantage if altnets aren’t given consideration (here). Finding a fair balance here is difficult to do.

The most likely outcome, judging by the political manifestos from various different parties, is that the Project Gigabit scheme will be retained and we might see greater infrastructure sharing. The next government will probably also try to avoid doing anything too radical in case it upsets or significantly delays existing contracts / deployments, which could impact tens of billions of pounds in private network investments. But nothing is currently set in stone.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
2 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Sonic says:

    How about INCA ask one of their members (APFN) to actually complete a rollout and not abandon a street part-way through a build? That might help towards recommendation 1.

    They have no accountability and are near impossible to get a straight answer from. Frustrating.

  2. Avatar photo Bob says:

    Plans for City Fibre telecommunications exchange on part of long-abandoned RAF Sudbury airfield, at Chilton

    Plans have been submitted for a new telecommunications exchange as part of the rollout of full fibre technology in Sudbury.

    City Fibre is asking Babergh Council for planning permission to build and site fibre exchange telecommunications infrastructure to provide full fibre (gigabit) service, on land at Chilton Airfield, north of Waldingfield Road.

    The proposed fibre exchange would serve Sudbury and surrounding areas, providing full fibre internet to residents and businesses.

    City Fibre said works on ‘Project Gigabit’, to rollout gigabit-capable broadband to had-to-reach communities, were scheduled to start in Sudbury in mid to late 2025.

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