Lockdown measures and the increase in home working and study as a result of Covid-19 have underscored our reliance on digital infrastructure to work, communicate, and connect. They have also exposed the UK’s sharp digital divide, defined by steep inequalities in access between regions and incomes.
Full-fibre networks uses fibre optic cables to connect premises to the Internet, instead of 20th century copper wire infrastructures. While its roll out is not yet complete, full fibre broadband is currently the fastest and more reliable broadband technology, and will also serve as the foundation for 5G cellular networks.
In Democratic Digital Infrastructure, a joint report between Common Wealth and The Democracy Collaborative, we argue that delivering a 100% full fibre network by 2030 should be at the heart of a just recovery after Covid-19. But this will require a new approach: market-led development has led to slow rates of connection, with only 13.7% of premises in the UK connected via full fibre, far behind other European and OECD economies. And the government’s own commissioned analysis shows competition will deliver a full-fibre network slower and at a higher cost than a monopoly alternative.
We need a new public infrastructure company with a mission to build a 21st century digital infrastructure. This map of full fibre coverage investigates different examples of how the broadband upgrade has been rolled out across the UK.
Kingston Upon Hull East
Lancaster and Fleetwood
Torridge and West Devon