UK planning reforms urged to fix slow gigabit rollout
Planning regulations are one of the biggest hurdles to installing essential digital infrastructure across the UK, according to a survey by Cluttons.
Only 38% of UK MPs believe the rollout of gigabit-capable networks is a success, and only 34% are confident that the country will achieve its target of 85% gigabit coverage by 2025.
But rising demand for high-speed internet – both broadband and mobile – for personal and professional use, accelerated by the pandemic, has made meeting digital infrastructure targets ever more important.
Nearly three-quarters (73%) of IT decision makers said that tech adoption has increased resilience to future economic shocks and availability of flexible working arrangement.
Responses were based on a survey of nearly 2,000 UK citizens, 101 IT decision makers, 103 MPs and 577 councillors, published in Cluttons’ Connecting the UK report.
The report quoted the government’s Public Accounts Committee, which said: “The government’s promises on digital connectivity are more important than ever, but those promises are slipping farther and farther out of reach.”
Councillors cited planning regulations as one of the biggest obstacles to infrastructure deployment – behind community objections and concerns about risk and disruption. About two-thirds (63%) of MPs believe planning reform is needed to speed up gigabit rollout.
Other takeaways from the report:
- The UK is making progress in digital connectivity: two-thirds of premises have access to gigabit broadband, while 5G is available from at least one network operator outside 42-57% of premises.
- Rural areas are left behind: the government plans to roll out gigabit infrastructure to 85% of the country by 2025, but there is no specific target for the final 15% of the UK, which is likely to be rural. Today, people in rural areas are three times more likely to experience mobile service disruption outside than those in cities
- A third of businesses are recruiting from a broader area: driven by remote working, companies are looking further afield for recruitment, but that also increases the need for better digital infrastructure
- People say they are supportive of communications infrastructure, but are they really? While 70% of citizens said they support communications infrastructure being rolled out in their local area, councillors cited community objections as the single largest hurdle to broadband deployment
- Few people understand the need for fast mobile and broadband connections: just 21% said they understand the benefits of gigabit broadband, while 30% understood 5G. Meanwhile, only 27% of respondents believe access to 5G and gigabit capable broadband will be beneficial to them.