Summer 2019 - Optical Connections Magazine


FULL FIBRE IN THE UK Are Rural Businesses Being Left Behind?

In an exclusive article for Optical Connections, Evan Wienburg , CEO of TrueSpeed, a provider of full fibre infrastructure in South West England, says it’s the time to put UK rural businesses back on the infrastructure agenda.

T he need for a future-proof digitally-driven economy has been universally acknowledged. It is now Government policy. For all of the challenges that lie ahead in delivering full fibre infrastructure to the whole country, excitement about the opportunity is palpable across the telecoms industry. But of course, such a rollout must be carefully managed, scrutinised and assessed from the outset, which is why the draft of UK regulator Ofcom’s latest Annual Plan has been subject to far closer interrogation than might have been the case just a few years ago. In fact, just weeks ago the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) asked Ofcom to go back to the drawing board and extend greater focus towards the business broadband market.

a dozen references to business needs, compared to almost 80 references to consumer priorities. It’s not my intention to indulge in regulator-bashing. Ofcom’s role is challenging in many ways already, before we even consider the added complications of protecting consumers during the inevitable ‘gold rush’ to get full fibre out to all UK homes by 2033. The question here is a simple one: are businesses truly a part of Ofcom’s remit or not, and if they aren’t, who is going to be responsible for ensuring that all businesses benefit equally from the full fibre revolution? The question is particularly pertinent to the thousands of rural businesses operating outside the major UK cities that contribute upwards of £229 billion to the UK economy, according to a UK parliamentary report. All of these

On reading Ofcom’s 2019/20 Annual Plan in detail, the problem is clear from the first goal onwards: “Promote competition and ensure that markets work effectively for consumers. Our aim is to ensure consumers and businesses benefit from a range of communications products and services, with the market providing a range of choice, price, quality, investment and innovation. We do this by ensuring that markets work effectively, through regulation where appropriate, so consumers can benefit from competition and investment.” Generic though this statement may be, one can’t help but feel as though the word ‘business’ has been thrown in as an afterthought to ensure that all bases are covered, rather than as a genuine commitment. This is backed up by the plan at large, which contains fewer than


| ISSUE 17 | Q2 2019

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