Boris Johnson has the power to accelerate the rollout of faster broadband speeds by making it simpler for internet service providers to expand, a Virgin Media chief has suggested.
The new Prime Minister said he wants full-fibre connections available across the country “for all by 2025” during the Conservative leadership race – eight years ahead of the Government’s existing goal of 2033.
Mr Johnson called the current target “laughably unambitious” in June and acknowledged that public funding would be needed to meet his goal.
Jeff Dodds, chief operating officer of Virgin Media, said that the company is aligned with the Prime Minister’s desire to increase broadband speeds, but urged him to use his position at the top of Government to help ramp up the rollout.
Internet service providers have to seek wayleave agreements for permission to install their apparatus on privately owned land and some buildings.
Mr Dodds said the current system is “quite cumbersome” and “not particularly flexible”.
“There’s a lot that Boris Johnson and Government can do to make that process more streamlined and efficient for people wishing to invest and build out,” he told PA.
“The second thing is to look at things like broadband rates, the taxation on building out broadband infrastructure.
“If he wants to build faster, there are plenty of levers Boris has at his disposal to pull to encourage people to get their speeds out quicker, including us.”
The MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip repeated his desire for “fantastic full-fibre broadband sprouting in every household” during his Conservative leadership victory speech on Tuesday.
Full-fibre, which uses fibre cables all the way from the exchange to a person’s home, is only available to 7% of UK properties, according to Ofcom’s spring 2019 Connection Nations update.
Mr Johnson’s aim has been seen as ambitious by the industry, with the chairman of UK’s internet trade body Andrew Glover recently saying there would need to be regulatory change.
“Boris Johnson’s ambitious commitment to achieve full-fibre coverage by 2025 is welcome, but needs to be matched with ambitious regulatory change, including reform of the fibre tax,” he said.
“Broadband is a largely privately financed infrastructure and together with outdated planning laws, fibre business rates are holding our members back from accelerating their rollout plans.”
Virgin Media has pledged to make hyperfast gigabit speeds available to almost 15 million homes across its entire network by 2021.
More than 1.7 million premises have been added to the provider’s network since it started its Project Lightning network expansion programme in 2015.