A £59bn full-fibre future is coming in 2020

10th December 2019

The British broadband business landscape could undergo its most dramatic year of change in 2020. And regardless of the outcome, the UK’s December 2019 General Election will represent a major milestone in this journey of development.

For the first time in electoral history, broadband access became a major political bargaining chip, up there with healthcare and national infrastructure projects such as motorways and rail networks.

The Labour Party placed a telecoms revolution at the centre of its manifesto, with three significant changes on the table. First was the provision of fast and high-quality broadband free at the point of use.

The party said this would be achieved via the second major change, the renationalisation of parts of BT. The third element would be the introduction of new taxes for tech multinationals, designed to pay for the work involved.

Speaking at an event in Lancaster in November when both parties were on the campaign trail, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the proposed restructuring of the industry is necessary as the internet has become such a central part of life.

“It opens up opportunities for work, creativity, entertainment and friendship,” said Corbyn in an official statement. “What was once a luxury is now an essential utility. That’s why full-fibre broadband must be a public service, bringing communities together, with equal access, in an inclusive and connected society. Making it free and available to all will open up opportunities for everybody, at the cutting edge of social and economic change.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson did not mince his words when he learned of the Labour plan later the same day, reported Reuters.

“We are funding a huge programme of investment in our roads, in telecoms, gigabyte broadband, unlike the crazed, crazed Communist scheme that was outlined earlier on today,” Johnson told Conservative Party activists, speaking in front a campaign bus emblazoned with the slogan “Get Brexit Done”.

A negative Conservative response was perhaps to be expected, but the Prime Minister wasn’t the only critic, and the proposal didn’t attract quite the widespread admiration the Labour Party had hoped for.

Stephen Bush, political editor of the traditionally left-leaning New Statesman magazine, wrote: “It’s not sustainable to at once want to move the British economy away from the free market, happy home for multinationals model of the last 30 years and to continue the New Labour-era approach of using the fruits of those industries to fund the public services.”

The big hole in Labour’s approach is that its radicalism on policy is not matched by radicalism on taxation, wrote Bush. “The failure to make an open and honest argument for broad-based tax rises might yet leave Labour badly exposed to a Conservative attack that the party is not being candid about who will pay for Britain’s transformation.”

Both political parties appreciate the economic dividends of a full-fibre rollout across the UK are substantial. Research by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) has shown that a full-fibre future could add nearly £59 billion to the UK economy by 2025. An Openreach-commissioned report – Full Fibre Broadband: A Platform For Growth – suggested national fibre access would allow 400,000 more people to work remotely from home, reducing transport and housing pressures in big cities and boosting local and rural economies.

“This could reinvigorate rural communities which are currently suffering from depopulation and declining availability of social infrastructure – and relax housing affordability and transport constraints in major urban centres, as people choose to move around the country and into rural communities.”

The report also took into consideration the impact the employment choices of carers, the over-65s, and new parents who could consider work-from-home opportunities in the future.

“The analysis suggests that over 500,000 people who may otherwise not have worked could now find attractive employment opportunities,” the report suggested. “Again, the economic impact of increased workforce participation could be significant, even under conservative assumptions about employment choices.”

  • Here at Connectus, we’re looking forward to helping our clients and partners across the UK make the most of the full-fibre revolution. Contact us today if you’d like to know more about how we can help – your company could be eligible for a £2,500 Gigabit Voucher to upgrade your existing business broadband.