In response to the Chancellor’s Spending Review and the publication of the National Infrastructure Strategy, Lloyd Felton, chief executive of County Broadband which is building full-fibre networks across the East of England, commented:
“We welcome the publication of the much-delayed National Infrastructure Strategy although we’re perplexed by the government’s apparent rowing back on its flagship 2025 target.
“It’s clear that following the economic consequences of Covid-19, the government are in need of making spending cuts, but this must be done in the right way. Setting a new goal of 85% UK-wide commitment is more realistic but it should be remembered fast and reliable full-fibre broadband, will be the pillar for the nation to ‘build back better’.
“Local providers will continue to be the frontline driving force to realise the new targets for connecting more homes and businesses to future-ready broadband networks, supported by the private funding we have in place.
“We await to hear the government’s response on how they plan to support the delivery of real fibre networks into even deeper rural areas who might otherwise be starved of world-class digital infrastructure.
“Despite the uncertainty of the pandemic, we have seen demand surge for fast and reliable digital connectivity as we move to a hybrid way of working and living. As a result, we are confident of seeing continued enthusiasm among private investors to keep up with demand.
“Our concern is that the newly announced cuts in funding needed to connect the harder-to-reach areas is at odds with the previously published £5bn funding identified as needed to meet the government’s connection targets. We back calls that this level of funding should be ringfenced.”