Having the right digital connectivity and infrastructure in place is fundamental to maximising regional growth and driving public service reform. Great connectivity offers citizens seamless services, where they can efficiently make transactions, access jobs and get the most out of the digital world and their community. Getting the digital infrastructure right and providing ubiquitous connectivity is the backbone to any digital transformation or starting point in creating a smart place and community.
Based on this, techUK and Southwark Council hosted a roundtable at techUK to discuss their experience of delivering superfast broadband to the community and working with broadband providers.
The roundtable gave the opportunity to bring together shared learning between local authorities and the telecommunications industry about their experiences and to discuss how the collaboration between both local authorities and industry can make better-connected communities a reality – from the procurement process to delivery.
Southwark Council wanted to share their journey to superfast broadband, including their issues, approach, asks and lessons learnt from this experience. You can find Southwark Council’s slides below:
Delegates around the table emphasised that greater connectivity is starting to matter increasingly, not just a focus on the consumers but businesses also. Priorities are mostly focused on delivering fibre to premises, but we also need to look at the opportunities the 5G network affords. The unique characteristics and the potential 5G unlocks in both local government and in the telecommunications industry, such as street furniture.
The European Electronic Communications Code (EECC) that was introduced in 2017, has already undermined the exclusive concessions that local authorities already had in place, but it has limited case law as to what exactly that means. Therefore, delegates around the table agreed there should be greater clarities needed around the EECC.
The roundtable discussions made aware that industry is still hesitant (despite decades) to engage with local authorities for permission to deploy base stations. It is important for industry to understand the nature and how local government works, as well as how assets are split up between local authorities to enable meaningful conversations. There are continued unrealised expectations on the timescales that authorities must deal with too. techUK’s Demystifying Local Gov: Growing the Local GovTech Market was highlighted as a good event for industry to attend to get a better understanding of how local government operates.
The key takeaways from the roundtable and what most delegates had in common were:
There must be clear communications to residents throughout the journey of deployment of broadband and 5G.
Collaboration is key – both public and private sectors work differently but working together gives them an advantage.
There must be an investment in social value assets.
It is advised that there should be political and strategic support to all councils when delivering broadband or 5G
It is clear there needs to be partnership between telecommunications industry and local authorities in terms of planning, and clarifications on both broadband and 5G in order to lay down the foundations for a better-connected place. Industry has a role to play in evangelising benefits of 5G as well as the two communities coming together to share and sign-post good practise. techUK is pleased to be working along side the local authorities and industry on this and has a role to play in convening key players across this eco-system.
techUK’s next event is with the Greater London Authority and London boroughs on 11 June on a ‘developing a London wide connectivity approach.’ This workshop to bring together Boroughs and telecommunications providers to explore the options for making available council assets to support potential 5G deployment requirements, and to arrive at an approachable way of working closely together.