Rural Lens review on the Government's Wireless Infrastructure Strategy
The Rural Services Network has published its Rural Lens Review of the Wireless Infrastructure Strategy issued by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology last month.
Rural Services Network’s thoughts on the UK Wireless Infrastructure Strategy are summarised as follows:
- The Wireless Infrastructure strategy includes a specific chapter on ensuring good connectivity across rural and urban areas with a 10 point plan for rural connectivity. However, the RSN has concerns about the vagueness of some of the points, for example in terms of very hard to reach areas the only commitment is that the government will work with industry to ensure that these premises get improved broadband where required - with nothing on time scales.
- The activities which the strategy suggests should be undertaken by local authorities and indeed the proposals in respect of 5G Innovation Regions fail to reflect the ongoing capacity issues faced by most rural councils. That will continue to be the case as long as the local government funding formula remains unfair on rural councils. In the 2023/24 local government funding settlement urban areas will receive £134.88 more per head of population in Government Funded Spending Power than their rural counterparts.
- The Government must ensure that the 5G Innovation Regions, particularly given their geographical size, fully consider the needs of the rural areas and businesses within the overall region. It will be far too easy for those Innovation Regions to focus all their investments in the more densely populated areas they cover where they can see more outcomes for the investment due to greater numbers being served. If that approach is taken, rural areas within the region will be pushed further behind the urban areas by comparison.
- The Strategy clearly demonstrates that there will be market failure in achieving the strategy’s objectives in rural areas. Even where there is a marginal commercial case rural areas will be at the end of the queue for commercial investment. Only significant government investment can hope to combat the market failure referred to. There is insufficient government funding detailed in the strategy to combat the market failure in rural areas in anything like reasonable time.
- Addressing the sustainability of the electricity grid network in rural areas must be a priority.
- The Rural Connectivity Champion must be required to produce a publicly available annual report.
- Ofcom should be required to review and upgrade the broadband Universal Service Obligation which at 10 Mbps, is out of date and inadequate for what have become some everyday essential uses.
You can read the full Rural Lens Review by clicking on the image below: