Do not make “vague promises”, says NIC chief

Sir John Armitt, chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), has called the UK Government out on simply paying “lip service” and “restating existing policy”, whilst only giving “vague promises” when discussing proposals to improve national 5G and broadband networks.

In order to develop a National Infrastructure Strategy (NIS) this autumn, the NIC has published a number of reports assessing the state of telecommunication infrastructure across the country; Armitt has even lauded Chancellor Philip Hammond for welcoming “progress in many areas, particularly on waste and water, and on digital connectivity,” highlighting the national full fibre (FTTP/H) broadband initiative which is due to cover the country by 2033.

Now, however, Armitt has vowed to hold the government accountable for its claims to foster tangible results as part of the UK’s infrastructure strategy.

He said: “The Commission was established to encourage a radical change in the way the UK plans and funds its infrastructure for the long term.

“We’ve seen positive steps from the government in adopting our recommendations on reducing water leakage and tackling waste. But those were the easy wins. Real change is required if we are to boost our economic prosperity and quality of life up to 2050. That requires the government’s National Infrastructure Strategy to be bold and transformative and commit to major changes like devolving funding for cities transport.

“We’ve put forward a costed plan for how we do that, backed up by a wealth of new evidence in support. We now need the government to step up to the plate and share our ambition to create a bold future for the infrastructure that people across the country will use every day of their lives.”

Armitt’s comments in light of the forthcoming Gigabit Rural Connectivity Programme – a £200 million scheme through which full fibre networks will be extended to rural schools and to provide coverage through voucher schemes. To achieve these goals, however, the NIC will require significant monetary support from the government to bridge the gap and to ensure that coverage extends to “rural and remote communities”.

Ofcom, the UK telecoms watchdog, further commented: “We agree with Sir John Armitt that building the right infrastructure for the mid-21st century will help shape a new national and global identity. And for us, the right infrastructure for the future is digital.”