CBI urges government to supercharge region’s broadband to avoid economy buffering

February 7, 2019

Firms across the West of England will be left on the wrong side of the ‘digital divide’ unless the government takes action to improve connectivity and pave the way for powerful 5G networks.

The warning came today from the CBI, which fears that, with Brexit dominating the political landscape, the need for an all-important upgrade of the UK’s digital infrastructure is being overlooked. 

While connectivity in cities and towns across the West of England remains patchy, businesses in rural areas are suffering from outdated services and long waits for upgrades.

Yet, according to the South West CBI, the region’s firms are “champing at the bit” to help upgrade the digital networks, knowing that better connectivity helps flexible workers and reduces costs while also laying the foundation for companies to adopt 5G.

CBI regional director Deborah Fraser urged the government to take practical steps this year to add billions to the economy, enable companies to adopt new technologies and close the productivity gap between London and the rest of the UK.

“There’s is a real risk that 2019 will be a year in which we overlook the rest of our economy,” she said. 

“There’s already a digital divide in rural areas across the UK. Our ability to enjoy world-class digital connectivity shouldn’t be determined by where we live or work. It’s not just a social case for national coverage, but a clear economic one.

“Businesses have already invested heavily in digital infrastructure. In fact, the private sector will provide most of the £33bn total investment needed to deliver full fibre networks across the UK. But government must help firms access those hard to reach areas.”

The CBI’s recommendations to the government are:

  • Fast-track laws for firms to install internet connections in existing homes for private tenants and ensuring all new properties have full fibre or other gigabit cables installed when they’re built
  • Equip all new train lines and other transport projects with full fibre cables
  • Get businesses ready for 5G adoption by raising awareness of its uses and how firms can use it – through government trials.

The CBI also wants to government to give networks access to privately rented homes and new build homes.“Why aren’t we equipping every new build in the UK with full-fibre technology to enable more flexible working?” said Deborah, pictured.

“In this case, it’s not just investing that matters. It’s also about the challenges companies face getting access to properties when looking to install digital connections in private rentals.

“Businesses want to see fast-tracked planning legislation going through parliament this year if we are to give constituents, consumers, and commuters the world-class connectivity they need.”

She also said that while the UK was developing fantastic technology, the key was to ensure firms adopted it.

“2019 must be a year of rapid uptake. First by extending support for businesses to help small firms adopt existing technologies like 4G and full fibre

“And second, by expanding trials in new technology like 5G so businesses can explore the art of the possible with seamless connectivity. Because in today’s world, digital connectivity is not just a nice to have, it’s a business basic,” she added.

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