Will our cities be super-connected?

Will our cities be super-connected?

10 December 2012

by Mark Collins - Director, Policy and Regulation Last week we saw the announcement from George Osborne that the Government has selected twelve additional cities that will benefit from an allocation of aid from the Urban Broadband Fund. £50 million of new funding is to be granted, and this is in addition to the £114 million that was awarded earlier in the year to ten larger cities. This stimulus is to encourage private sector investment and help realise the rollout of ultrafast broadband to businesses and residents.

Firstly, I would like to congratulate the council leaders and their teams from the twelve cities. No doubt there was a lot of hard work involved in submitting their applications and in determining which areas of their cities are suitable for state aid intervention. However, in many ways, the hard work has only just begun - now procurement and supplier selection must commence.

I think it would be reasonable to say that that the communication industry is broadly aware of the lobbying by our incumbent operators to attempt to manipulate the award of government aid in their favour. Perhaps this is to be expected, but the voices of concern from politicians, city leaders and taxpayers are getting louder. Simply put, we can do much better than just hand over more taxpayer’s money to BT to be used to prop up an inefficient legacy infrastructure. Our cities deserve better, and if they support a pro-competitive environment, they can achieve much more.

CityFibre is a builder of transformational fibre infrastructure in UK towns and cities. We deliver pure fibre wholesale connectivity to homes and businesses providing low latency, symmetrical gigabit broadband – that’s how we define Ultrafast. We firmly believe that a modern pure fibre network brings benefits to all of society, including the public sector, businesses and residents. Our networks are a foundation for innovation and economic development and are essential for the health and wellbeing of our digital economies.

CityFibre is also a believer in pro-competitive markets - establishing infrastructure competition and giving businesses and service providers a better choice of infrastructure. Our Government’s Super Connected Cites initiative seeks to encourage the deployment of faster broadband in some of the UK's bigger cities - it is an initiative that CityFibre broadly supports. However, there is a big danger that incumbents will manipulate the process to prevent a pro-competitive environment - we are seeing this in Birmingham today with BT and Virgin’s challenge to Birmingham's state aid decision. As a result, innovation and realisation of transformational gigabit infrastructure is hampered. It may be a winning formula for BT’s shareholders, but the losers will be the businesses, residents and the service providers that today, are overly dependent on BT’s infrastructure.

Therefore, the Government and city leaders should actively support participation from CityFibre and other pure fibre providers by ensuring open and fair procurement, a pro-competitive environment and a vision that supports and unlocks greater private investment in open access future-proof gigabit fibre networks. Lets ensure our taxpayers get more broadband bang for their hard earned buck and witness the deployment of a modern infrastructure fit for our growing digital economy.

CityFibre looks forward to engaging with the council leaders and their teams in the twelve new cities. Together we can realise their vision of being truly Super Connected.