Her Majesty opens UK Parliament with fantastic tales of gigabit-capable broadband for everyone

But without a majority, it's more likely to form basis of Tory manifesto than law

Her Majesty the Queen. Crown copyright/MoD

The UK government has promised to roll out new legislation to achieve nationwide "gigabit-capable broadband" among 26 bills set out in Parliament's State Opening today.

In her opening, the Queen said the government's priority "has always been to secure the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union on 31 October". As such, the government released seven pieces of Brexit-related legislation, including a bill to end freedom of movement and bring in a points-based immigration system from 2021.

However, as UK prime minister Boris Johnson is short of a majority by 43, it is expected many of the bills may not become law, but rather form the basis of a future Tory manifesto.

On broadband, the Queen outlined plans by the government to introduce new legislation for "gigabit-capable" speeds.

An accompanying briefing document (PDF) fleshed out those plans to supposedly "achieve nationwide coverage as soon as possible" so people can "reap the huge benefits of the fastest, most secure and most resilient internet connections, regardless of where they live".

That includes proposals to make it easier for telecoms companies to install broadband infrastructure in blocks of flats and ensure that all new homes are built with reliable and fast internet speeds.

The main elements of the legislation are:

  • Creating a cheaper and faster light-touch tribunal process for telecoms companies to obtain interim code rights (or access rights) for a period of up to 18 months. This will mean that they can install broadband connections where the landlord has failed to respond to repeated requests for access.
  • Amending the Building Act 1984 so that Building Regulations require all new build developments to have the infrastructure to support gigabit-capable connections.
  • Requiring for developers to work with broadband companies to install gigabit-capable connections in virtually all new build developments, up to a cost cap.

The government also recently pledged £5bn to support the rollout of gigabit-capable broadband in the hardest to reach 20 per cent of the country, with more details expected in the National Infrastructure Strategy out this autumn.

The government has spent £1.8bn bringing superfast broadband to over 96 per cent of the country, with thousands of homes and businesses connected each week.

However, some have argued that was at the expense of focusing on faster gigabit speeds. For example, Hull has become the first city in the country to receive full fibre. That was because of a decision made in 2012 to focus on fibre-to-the-premises, rather than superfast speeds derived from fibre-to-the-cabinet. Crucially, it is the only city in the UK to have KCOM as its main broadband infrastructure provider, instead of BT.

The National Infrastructure Commission has previously estimated that it could cost £33.4bn to build a nationwide full-fibre network, mostly from private investment. ®

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