Maria Miller To Relax Rules For Broadband Infrastructure
Miller makes her first announcement as culture secretary, promising to cut the red tape surrounding superfast broadband rollout
Today, newly appointed culture secretary Maria Miller unveiled plans to relax rules governing broadband infrastructure, hoping it would help achieve the target set by her predecessor Jeremy Hunt last month of having the fastest broadband in Europe by 2015.
By 2015, the government wants to provide 90 percent of homes and businesses in the UK with Internet access offering at least 24 Mbps download speeds. It is investing a whopping £680 million in superfast broadband, but the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has blamed bureaucracy for delaying the roll-out and “jeopardising the country’s economic recovery”.
The main changes in legislation will concern infrastructure installation. Under the new plans, ISPs will be able to install street cabinets in almost any location without having to seek approval from the local council. The process of laying cables in the streets will also be made simpler.
Even the owners of private land could be forced to allow ISPs to dig up their property, “without the bureaucratic burden of long-running negotiations”.
The planning process for installation of equipment necessary for mobile broadband might also be altered. Finally, the Department will hold talks with power companies and utility regulator Ofgem to develop a framework for supplying broadband connections together with power supply.
“Superfast broadband is vital to secure our country’s future – to kick start economic growth and create jobs. We are putting in the essential infrastructure that will make UK businesses competitive, and sweeping away the red tape that is a barrier to economic recovery,” said Miller.
“The government means business and we are determined to cut through the bureaucracy that is holding us back.”
“It’s critical that consumers and small businesses have digital capability and access to fast and reliable broadband so they can fully benefit from all the opportunities the web offers to transform the way they live and the way they do business. Making it easier to deploy broadband, particularly in more rural areas, will help to make sure no one is left behind,” added UK digital champion Martha Lane Fox.
Meanwhile, a survey of over 1,100 Brits by thinkbroadband.com has revealed that only 14 percent of consumers have faith that government will deliver on its superfast broadband pledge.
“The results illustrate that broadband users seek higher speeds but are not optimistic, with confidence in the government’s plans at an all time low. The new culture secretary should take note of this and ensure they keep on track with the ambitious plans or risk lowering public confidence even further,” said Andrew Ferguson, editor of thinkbroadband.com.
Not everyone will welcome Miller’s announcement. In May, BT had to stop the roll-out of fibre broadband in Kensington and Chelsea after the local council objected to the installation of 96 out of 108 planned cabinets in its “historic streetscapes”.
The council had not responded to our request for comment at the time of writing.
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