Wednesday 7 October 2020 1:50 pm

Government ‘likely to miss’ 2025 full-fibre broadband target

The government’s promise to provide full-fibre broadband to every home in the UK by 2025 is likely to be missed without sweeping reforms of telecoms policy, according to a new report.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson made “levelling up” the country’s broadband provision a key part of his election manifesto and last year pledged £5bn to reaching its rollout target.

But a new report from the Social Market Foundation (SMF) think tank has warned there is a “mountain to climb”, adding that the 2025 ambition would not be met without major reform.

Currently just 14 per cent of UK homes have access to superfast full-fibre broadband — a figure that lags well behind other countries such as Spain, New Zealand and South Korea.

“The 2025 target is extremely ambitious and the UK still has a mountain to climb to reach it,” said SMF research director Scott Corfe.

“Getting there will require some radical changes, especially in how the public sector uses its huge buying power to support demand for broadband and offer the industry some certainty that funding new networks will pay off.”

The think tank called on ministers to make a number of reforms to broadband policy, including reducing the industry’s risk of investing in new networks.

It also said central and local government should commit to purchasing full-fibre broadband for buildings such as hospitals and schools to ensure some “certainty of demand”.

Other suggestions included the creation of New Zealand-style local fibre companies, jointly run by public sector bodies and private firms, to deliver broadband to the most remote areas.

The government has announced new laws that will make it easier for broadband providers to connect blocks of flats, while all new-build homes will be required to come with full-fibre services.

However, industry figures have urged ministers to go further to help speed up the rollout.

BT boss Philip Jansen last month warned the government’s target would be missed by eight years without £9bn worth of tax and red tape cuts.

A spokesperson for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “The government is committed to bringing faster, gigabit-speed internet to the whole country.

“We are determined to deliver on our gigabit plans and 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.”