Budget Didn’t Light Up Our Fibre

Budget didn’t light up our fibre

It is with a slight sense of deja vu that we assess yesterday’s Budget announcements by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

After the last Budget our view was that there was very little in there to excite the business community around communications and IT – and so it seems this time (this piece includes what our MD, Chris, had to say to the regional press yesterday).

Looking at what Philip Hammond did say, we find there was £15m for trials and testing of 5G technologies, which is important, but we can’t help but feel that was little more than a way to shoehorn something a bit techy and sexy into an otherwise very dry speech. It’s a nod to the future, not a full-on, guns blazing charge into it.

Similarly, there was £190m for a “challenge fund” to encourage industry to promote the roll out of full fibre networks. That seems like a more serious sum, but as we all know from the hoo-har that has surrounded the slow spread of high-speed broadband, it needs billions to get infrastructure like that into everywhere it’s needed.

However, we shouldn’t be totally negative. That it was one of two tech announcements in the budget does acknowledge that it’s on the Government’s radar, at least.

Future Proof Fibre

Why is full fibre so important? Because it’s the only real, future proof and robust way of ensuring we can move enough data around to deliver the future at the speeds which will be required to serve every internet connected device.

Still too much of our data network relies on copper cables laid decades ago and there remain entire business parks which are not on a high speed backbone. This pot of cash from the Budget might encourage a few black spots to get filled in, but we would expect the spread of full fibre to creep its way around the country in a more piecemeal way, not as part of some major, funded plan – at least not anytime soon.

When all is said and done, the Chancellor had too many pressures bearing down on him from too many sides to make any bold moves aimed at pushing us into a world-leading position, from a comms point of view.

We would hope to see more in that direction in the future though, as we have to forge our new way in a post-EU world.