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Landowners will help speed up rural broadband rollout - if government delivers on fibre pledge

Friday, January 27th 2017 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Landowners will make it easier for broadband infrastructure providers to access private land – if the government proves its commitment to improving rural connectivity.

The CLA, which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses, says its members would be willing to renew and update an industry wayleave agreement for access across private land.

But it wants the government – and broadband providers – to set out exactly when and where digital infrastructure will be upgraded in rural areas.

It is also calling for a bigger marketing effort to ensure people are aware when new connections become available.

The CLA was responding to a government consultation on extending local full fibre – or fibre to the premises (FTTP) – networks.

CLA senior business and economics adviser Charles Trotman said: “This consultation marks a major departure from previous government policy on improving connectivity and is in line with many recommendations made by the CLA on the future of rural broadband.”

In the past, government policy has tended to focus on fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) broadband, which uses traditional copper wires to connect individual premises to an otherwise fibre network.

But digital minister Matt Hancock has been vocal about the need to focus on FTTP and 5G mobile coverage.

“We fully support the government’s commitment to full fibre rollout to improve broadband and mobile coverage,” said Mr Trotman.

“This latest push must end the long running rural-urban divide once and for all.

'Potential'

“If the government follows through on the commitment it is setting out, the CLA is prepared to work with the industry to negotiate an overarching wayleave agreement between landowners and infrastructure providers for access to deliver a network of underground fixed lines.

“Such a deal has the potential to dramatically advance broadband provision in rural areas.”

In a report on the future of rural business published in December, the CLA set out a number of ideas to improve connectivity, including putting conditions on mobile operators as part of the next spectrum auction to ensure maximum data coverage in rural areas.

It suggested encouraging more homes and business to pool vouchers to fund local broadband solutions – and for infrastructure providers to be more open about their rollout plans.

The CLA also said businesses that invest in their own fibre networks could become local broadband suppliers by setting up wireless networks to connect other properties.

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