The UK Public Accounts Committee reckons even the revised gigabit broadband rollout target will be missed. Welcome to the party, pal.
A major flaw in the democratic process is that candidates will promise almost anything in order to get elected and Boris Johnson was certainly no exception when he was bidding to become leader of the Conservative party back in 2019. At the time he reckoned the target of achieving full fibre across the UK wasn’t nearly ambitious enough and decided 2025 sounded a lot better.
It was clear at the time that he hadn’t given the pledge any meaningful thought and, having won both the leadership and the subsequent general election, it has become a millstone around his neck. Fast forward to the end of last year and the pledge was downgraded to ‘a minimum of 85% gigabit capable coverage by 2025.
Now the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament has published a report that dares to express scepticism about the likelihood of even that diminished target being hit. “We are concerned that the Department has yet to make any meaningful progress in delivering the policy and legislative changes deemed essential by industry if it is to achieve rapid roll-out,” says the hard-hitting report.
The usual suspects have sought to gain political capital from the fact that Parliament has finally caught up with what everyone else has known for years. But this isn’t a great time to be moaning about public infrastructure investment, with Lockdown 3 set to plunge public finances into possibly their worst state ever.
On a more pragmatic level Greg Mesch, CEO of CityFibre, took the opportunity to put his hand up for a bit more state assistance in order to best contribute to the collective effort. “The PAC is right that the revised 2025 target is both challenging and vital to meet but we believe that by working closely with Government and Ofcom it’s achievable,” he said.
BoJo’s pledge was fantastical in mid-2019. The intervening time has seen the biggest test of public finances since World War 2, thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic and the apparent need to lock everyone in their houses until it blows over. So of course we’re not going to get anywhere near even the revised 2025 target and the PAC deserves no credit whatsoever for pointing that out.