In a statement, it says that its proposals will transform the business case for fibre investment, for towns, cities and villages alike, and that from next year it plans to vary its regulation for different parts of the country. This, combined with the government’s planned £5 billion funding for rural areas, will ensure nobody gets left behind.
Ofcom’s proposals amount to a four-point plan to support competitive investment in fibre networks. They are:
(1) Improving the business case for fibre investment, by setting Openreach’s wholesale prices in a way that encourages competition from new networks, as well as investment by Openreach.
(2) Protecting customers and driving competition, by making sure people can still access affordable broadband and preventing Openreach from stifling competition.
(3) Taking rural areas into the fast lane, by supporting investment by Openreach in these areas.
(4) Closing the copper network, as full fibre is built, so Openreach does not have the unnecessary costs of running two parallel networks.
Commenting on the plans, Ofcom’s interim chief executive Jonathan Oxley said they will “help fuel a full-fibre future for the whole country. We’re removing the remaining roadblocks to investment and supporting competition, so companies can build the networks that will drive the UK into the digital fast lane.
“Full-fibre broadband is much faster and more reliable. It’s vital that people and businesses everywhere – whether in rural areas, smaller towns or cities – can enjoy these benefits. So we’re making sure companies have the right incentives to accelerate full fibre to every part of the UK”.
Ofcom concludes by saying that the consultation it has opened today will close on April 1 and it will publish its decisions in early 2021 before the current rules expire in April 2021.
Interested parties have been quick to respond to the proposal, with an Openreach spokesperson saying: “Today’s proposals appear to be a big step in the right direction to give clarity and investment certainty.
“Like the government and Ofcom, we want to upgrade the UK to faster, more reliable full fibre broadband. We’re getting on with the job, building to 26,000 premises each week and we remain on track to reach 4m homes and businesses by the end of March 2021.”
“We’ll consider the range of proposals carefully and will continue to work with Ofcom and industry on getting the conditions right to help achieve the Government’s ambition of rolling out gigabit capable broadband across the UK as soon as possible.”
Meanwhile, a Virgin Media spokesman said: “We are rolling out gigabit connectivity across the UK and passionately believe that building next-generation broadband needs to be supported by regulators and government. These measures are an important step forward in providing the long-term certainty and clarity network investment requires.”