For some time now, the government has emphasised the importance of superfast connectivity for business growth - with David Cameron introducing a Universal Service Obligation that categorises broadband alongside the three core utilities in terms of status.
Quite simply the Prime Minister sees it as the key to becoming the most prosperous economy in Europe, as do we.
Ofcom’s ruling this week, which comes after months of feverish lobbying from all sides of the telecoms and media market, is a welcome one as it paves the way for more investment. It requests that BT opens up its network to competition - a move that many providers have been calling for in order to ensure that the UK achieves its goals for a truly digital economy. Ultrafast broadband networks, based on cable and fibre lines, would completely outclass the copper-based alternative planned by BT.
Considering that network providers all have a similar mission - transform the prospects of thousands of companies and consumers by offering them faster, cheaper, more reliable broadband - this week’s ruling will come as music to many ears.
As it stood, the UK’s approach was shackling many network providers, preventing innovation and the investment in infrastructure. The UK therefore was lagging behind European counterparts with outdated and slow connectivity, holding back real business innovation. The limited broadband options for firms have left many without any way to achieve modern speeds unless they are large enough to justify a dedicated line. This puts the UK’s competitiveness at risk in the global digital economy as businesses are unable to work quicker, smarter and seize greater opportunities to grow without a better connection. This is in spite of the fact that UK companies are investing up to £16 billion a year on communications technology.
With this ruling, connectivity providers will be able to access to the UK’s existing physical infrastructure, lay our own fibre efficiently rather than having to lease someone else’s. We will surely see an accelerated roll-out of high-speed networks across the country to provide businesses with much-needed high-speed connectivity.
The Ofcom ruling will now accelerate the roll-out of high-speed networks across the country and give businesses improved connectivity. Other countries are leading the way: in France, for instance, if the incumbent has delayed rolling out fibre to a business park, the regulation states that its duct network is automatically open to allow an alternative provider to do so instead. The result is that the smaller businesses have far better connectivity options available than currently experienced in the UK.
Ofcom's decision will enable UK businesses to grow more quickly and unlock their true potential by allowing providers like Colt to transform their connectivity options. A balanced regulation is fundamental to the communications industry to provide structure and fair competition
Although much is needed to be done to turn theory into reality, we can finally hope to see the UK marketplace develop at a rate that will bring us in line with and even surpass other markets.
Barney Lane, Director of Regulation at Colt