BT has warned that the government's target to achieve nationwide roll-out of full-fibre broadband by 2025 could be missed by eight years unless the government announces sweeping reforms and regulatory changes for the sector.
In a report commissioned by BT and prepared by consultancy Analysys Mason, the firm estimates that based on the current rollout speed, the full fibre coverage will only reach 70 per cent of British homes and businesses by 2025.
And in the absence of sweeping reforms, the target may not be delivered until 2033, the study warns.
In its election manifesto of 2019, the Conservatives pledged to bring full fibre and gigabit broadband to every home and business by 2025. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak also announced funding of £5 billion in the 2020 Budget to support the nationwide roll-out of full-fibre broadband.
"We're going to build broadband, railway, roads - if the country needs it, we will build it. Today's Budget provides £5 billion to get gigabit-capable broadband into the hardest to reach places," said Sunak in his Budget speech to the House of Commons in March this year.
In August last year, BT said that it was "ready to play its part" to speed-up the rollout of fibre-to-the-premise broadband across the UK.
According to BT, gigabit-capable broadband across the UK could help to speed up the long-term economic recovery post-pandemic and maintain the country's competitive position post-Brexit.
But, to achieve the target by 2025, the industry would need to increase the number of premises passed by UK fibre builders to 4.3 million every year - more than twice the current numbers.
BT says it has identified seven key policy, legislative and fiscal enablers that could allow the industry to provide full-fibre broadband up to 96 per cent of all UK homes and businesses by 2025 and 100 per cent by 2027.
These enablers include providing fair and equal access to infrastructure that exists on the ground; giving fibre builders access blocks of flats; ensuring that all new-build houses have full fibre pre-installed; announcing a subsidy scheme for fibre builders to recruit new staff; giving fibre enablers permissions to use the latest digging technology to lay fibres quickly and efficiently; and changing the rules for getting planning agreements to access land.
According to BT, the government also needs to reduce business rates on new broadband networks by extending the current tax holiday from five to 20 years.
"We must end the situation where BT and Virgin are actively penalised for investing in fibre, because they have to pay higher business rates on a fibre connection than they do on an older, much slower, copper one," the company said.
BT describes these seven measures as simple and reasonable changes that would save the industry a total of £9bn, while also empowering it to achieve its full-fibre goals.
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