A report from law firm Herbert Smith Freehills has highlighted industry concerns that the UK Government is proving to be more hindrance than assistance for the infrastructure rollout of future-proofed infrastructure.

While it might come as little surprise to some, the government is proving to be a clunky machine, with policy frameworks and regulations the main reason for the stuttering rollout of full-fibre and 5G networks across the UK. And this is not just the opinion of a bureaucracy-bashing hater, 50% of the audience at a recent Herbert Smith Freehills event agreed with the statement. There are other factors which are slowing down progress, but the government is the biggest hurdle.

“When you look at what happens in other countries they have taken much bolder decisions about regulation,” said Emily Clark, Chief Economist at BT. “In countries like Spain and Portugal – where there is a lot more FTTP – they’ve tended to step back from regulation like VULA in order to really drive incentives for rivals to invest.

“And in other countries they’ve actually stepped back from competition and said what we’ll do is create a very stable and predictable regulatory framework around the single national provider and that has also worked very well.”

The problem which the UK is facing is few positive decisions have actually been made. Policy frameworks and regulation have seemingly followed a similar path to the decisions of yesteryear. This is a huge issue as there is very little to compare the communications market of the 90s to what the beast has evolved to today. There are new modes of communication, software is arguably more important than hardware, the ecosystem has expanded and the role of digital in our lives is becoming increasingly more prominent. The game has changed, therefore the rules have to.

While this adaptation is a point which has been discussed for many years, the difference between preaching and action has been quite profound.

“There’s been somewhat of a mismatch between Government’s enthusiastic rhetoric to get as much infrastructure based competition as possible in to the UK market and some of the policy decisions we’ve seen emerge,” said Dan Butler, Head of Public Affairs and Policy at Virgin Media.

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