Sunday 27 September 2020 3:07 pm

Boris Johnson’s gigabit broadband target will be ‘missed by years’, warns BT boss

Boris Johnson’s target for delivering gigabit broadband across the UK will be missed by eight years without £9bn worth of tax and red tape cuts, BT has warned ministers. 

BT claims the industry is on course to deliver gigabit speeds across the nation by 2033, significantly later than Johnson’s election pledge of full coverage by 2025

Read more: BT blames coronavirus as profit and revenue shrink

However the telecoms giant said the full-fibre target could still be reached by 2027, but only if the government makes sweeping reforms to the sector. 

BT has been pushing the government to cut business rates on new broadband networks by extending a current tax holiday from five to 20 years.

Chief executive Philip Jansen previously said the extension would be worth around £1bn to the company. However government officials reportedly told the company that business rates will not be reconsidered until 2023. 

“We must end the situation where BT and Virgin are actively penalised for investing in fibre,

because they have to pay higher business rates on a fibre connection than they do on an older, much slower, copper one,” said BT director of policy Alex Towers. 

BT’s claims about the likely speed of the full-fibre rollout, which were first reported in the Sunday Telegraph, are based on a report by consultancy Analysys Mason.

In a report commissioned by BT, the firm estimates that, based on the current rollout pace, full-fibre broadband speeds would only reach 70 per cent of British homes and businesses by 2025, with complete coverage taking a further eight years to achieve. 

In addition to business rate cuts on new broadband lines, the report recommended overhauling planning rules to give engineers increased land access, and calling on local authorities to allow the use of the latest digging equipment as standard.  

Such measures would save the industry a total of £9bn, the report found.

Read more: BT bosses to waive millions in bonuses after dividend suspension

A spokesperson for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said the government was “determined to deliver on our gigabit commitment’.

“[We] are already acting to remove the barriers to industry accelerating broadband rollout as well as investing £5bn so the hardest to reach areas aren’t left behind,” they added. 

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