Hammond declared in 2016 that while Britain was late to the 4G party, he would position the nation as a 5G leader. The Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill plays a crucial part in delivering that promise.
Among the numerous announcements in the Autumn Statement was Hammond’s commitment of £1bn to boost the UK’s digital infrastructure. This included investment of £400m in a Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund to support fibre broadband providers.
This investment, he said at the time, would mean faster and more reliable connections to propel Britain’s homes and businesses to “the next generation of mobile connectivity. It would also go a long way in keeping the UK at the forefront of the development of the Internet of Things.”
Of course, Hammond also announced a 100 per cent business rates relief for a period of five years to those rolling out fibre cables. However, this relief, only applicable to new networks, was part of the Local Government Finance Bill, which was sidelined in light of the snap general election.
And after the Queen’s speech failed to mention the government’s broadband endeavours, the British populace was starting to worry whether the policy would be picked up again.
That is, until 4 July, when the Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill was introduced to the House of Commons.
The Bill is set to deliver the relief, with the government claiming it will “pave the way for a gold standard of full-fibre broadband and future 5G communications.”
It is still far from gaining Royal Assent though. A date for a second reading hasn’t even been announced. But this hasn’t stopped Matt Hancock, minister of state for digital, from announcing its potential to boost infrastructure to the point of batting competitors – the likes of the US – away with a stick.
He said: “We want to see more commercial investment in the gold-standard connectivity that full-fibre provides, and the 100 per cent business rate relief offered by the Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill and the Digital Infrastructure investment fund will provide a strong incentive for this.”