Autumn Statement 2016 – New investments in digital communications within the next 5 years
Chancellor Philip Hammond reaffirmed today the need for the UK to level-up its ambition for world class connectivity in an Autumn Statement placing digital communications infrastructure as a priority area of investment, critical to boosting UK productivity. The Chancellor confirmed the Government’s plans to invest over £1billion in the roll-out of full-fibre connections and future 5G communication.
The newly created National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) will supply £740million which will be invested in ‘fibre and 5G’ to support the market in delivering “a step change in broadband speed, security and reliability???
Although more details of how public funds will be allocated will be released at the Budget 2017 at which point the 5G strategy will be published, the BSG welcomes this and today’s additional announcements of;
- “£400 million for a new Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund, at least matched by private finance, to invest in new fibre networks over the next 4 years, helping to boost market ambitions to deploy full-fibre access to millions more premises by 2020
- a new 100% business rates relief for new full-fibre infrastructure for a 5 year period from 1 April 2017; this is designed to support roll out to more homes and businesses
- providing funding to local areas to support investment in a much bigger fibre ‘spine’ across the UK, prioritising full-fibre connections for businesses and bringing together public sector demand. The government will work in partnership with local areas to deliver this, and a call for evidence on delivery approaches will be published shortly after the Autumn Statement???
The boost in public investment of digital infrastructure is a welcome move, similarly for the announced business rates relief (though this measure would only apply to new full-fibre infrastructure – in September, the Valuation Office Agency announced a fourfold rise in business rates affecting all infrastructure providers). It is however still unclear how these announcements fit with the wider (long-awaited) Digital Strategy which was due to be published this year.