Queen's speech industry reaction: Broadband, infrastructure and driverless cars

The Queen today announced the government's legislation for the upcoming year at the state opening of Parliament, covering areas such as the digital economy, transport and the county's broadband infrastructure.

In light of the news, various industry professionals have offered their thoughts and analysis.

Josh Hardie, CBI Deputy Director-General:

Given the focus on the European Union referendum in this political cycle, it’s particularly encouraging to see the Government’s clear commitment to locking in growth, creating jobs and boosting investment to create a more prosperous society.

Prioritising the digital revolution, which is transforming the face of modern business, is a key step to propelling the UK’s productivity. Ensuring that broadband reaches all corners of the country will breed a new generation of companies in an increasingly competitive environment.

Whatever the outcome of the EU referendum, it’s vital the Government ploughs ahead with the rest of its programme. In the near future, business is looking forward to hearing more on several key projects, from a new runway in the South East to the National Innovation Plan.

Antony Walker, Deputy CEO, techUK:

Gaining timely access to sites on fair terms makes a huge difference when trying to deploy communications infrastructure, be that in city centres or highly rural areas. These changes will make it cheaper to build or upgrade infrastructure, meaning that private sector investment will result in more homes, businesses and transport corridors being provided with high-quality connectivity.

The government’s ambitions for extending the reach of high quality broadband are achievable. But we mustn’t put the cart before the horse. We need to focus first on how we can drive down costs, by removing barriers and enabling companies to plan efficiently. If we can drive down costs, then the funding discussion becomes far easier and the whole process should move faster. If we are smart then the number of connections that need to be funded through a Universal Service Obligation (USO) may be very small – maybe under 1 per cent of all premises.

Gordon Morrison, Director of Government Relations at Intel Security:

Today’s announcement around driverless cars is a clear example of where the government is actively pursuing cutting-edge technologies that will not only support our economy, but also position the UK as a global leader in transport technology.

However, it is crucial that in its pursuit of innovation, the government doesn’t neglect the security essentials which will guarantee not only the success of these new technologies, but also the safety of its users. With security researchers demonstrating the potential for hacking driverless cars, for example when a Jeep was remotely stopped on an American highway, the government must ensure that, as part of its innovative work with the automotive industry, cyber security remains a top priority.

Paul Farrington, senior solution architect at Veracode:

The UK government’s decision to invest in leading-edge technologies, such as in driverless cars and a commercial spaceport as part of the Modern Transport Bill, will be key to stimulating economic growth and job creation across the country.

While driverless cars have been championed for their potential to improve road safety, cut congestion and even speed up delivery times, we must ensure that cybersecurity factors are brought to the forefront of policy agendas from the outset.

Today, vulnerable software is one of the most significant challenges faced by the automotive industry. Findings from a recent IDC report indicated that there could be a lag of up to three years before car security systems are protected from hackers. With over 200 million lines of code in today’s connected car, not to mention smartphone apps linked to the car, we must ensure they are developed with security at the heart of the strategy, rather than as an afterthought.

Paul Evans, CEO at Boosty:

The Queen’s digital economy bill aims to provide the UK with the foundations for a better, nationwide broadband infrastructure. Yet despite the Government’s ongoing promises, large portions of the population, including those areas that power our industrial economy such as Scotland and Northern England, continue to be deprived of access to superfast, reliable broadband.

Today’s legislation will see Ofcom impose service providers with a ‘universal service obligation’ to deliver minimum broadband speeds of 10Mbps, but will it actually happen? The policy will need to be stringently enforced, as it aims to hold to account service providers that continue to deliver substandard broadband. This will mean offering compensation to inconvenienced customers, who can choose to switch providers if they are unhappy. Simply put, the UK’s broadband providers will need to improve their levels of service, or else face losing revenue.

Realistically, even if the government’s plans are pushed through, it could still take up to 5 or 6 years to roll-out superfast fibre broadband. By then the broadband infrastructure and may not be sufficient enough to support a new generation of digital services. Right now, consumers and service providers need a quick fix while government and Ofcom decide how to enforce its legislation. The answer is staring government, regulators and industry bodies in the face, as the UK already has the infrastructure in place to address this long-standing problem.

By combining fixed line and mobile networks to plug coverage gaps, operators can improve broadband speeds and reliability. This hybrid access model, which is already being adopted by consumers, is a cost-effective and more realistic solution to the empty promises from government of ‘better broadband.'

Image source: Shutterstock/Pres Panayotov