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New report reaffirms the importance, need and support for connectivity in the UK

Speed Up Britain welcomes the publication of a new report by Cluttons which finds that the government and consumers see connectivity as a vital element to levelling up the country, with local councillors and consumers supportive of further infrastructure in their areas.

The Cluttons report, Connecting the UK: Getting the nation gigabit ready, developed in partnership with YouGov, found that 82% of MPs surveyed agree that future digital connectivity should be part of local development plans, and central government has urged local authorities to provide support for gigabit rollout. At the same time, 73% of consumers agreed that installing broadband, mobile infrastructure and equipment across the country is vital for its social and economic advancement.

During the pandemic, the importance of connectivity has increased for UK consumers and businesses. For example, 68% of consumers reported using the internet more since the start of the pandemic. As digitalisation becomes an imperative for many industries, the report highlighted that two-thirds of large businesses believed connectivity has either accelerated or promoted the adoption of new technologies.

There is significant public support for the installation of the infrastructure to enable better connectivity. 70% of local consumers are supportive of further infrastructure and equipment being installed in their local areas to realise the benefits of a connected country. However, only a third of UK policy makers surveyed consider the country’s gigabit rollout successful. Two thirds of MPs believe that planning reform is important to speed up the rollout.

While planning reform plays a role, the key challenge holding back rollout is the functioning of the Electronic Communications Code (the Code), the legislation governing telecoms operators’ relationship with landowners. Despite shared intentions between government and industry to accelerate rollout, loopholes in the Code have stalled progress with lengthy legal proceedings delaying vital upgrades a posing a significant challenge to the industry’s ability to improve mobile infrastructure.

Speed Up Britain is pleased that the Government has recognised the current framework isn’t working, and brought forward proposals to reform the Code via the Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill, which had its Second Reading in the House of Commons in January.

While the intent of the Bill is clear – to accelerate the rollout of improved mobile connectivity – drafting issues threaten to undermine the government’s aims. Speed Up Britain is calling for three important, targeted changes to the Bill in order to overcome these issues. It is vital that DCMS acts on our recommendations to deliver a Bill that truly delivers the mobile connectivity that, as the Cluttons report highlights, is overwhelmingly supported by policy makers and consumers.