UK local authorities unveil connectivity priorities for 2023
A recent study from connectivity consultancy firm FarrPoint has found that digital leaders across the UK have shown good progress on developing their digital connectivity, but challenges still remain.
Farrpoint surveyed over 100 digital leaders at local authorities across England, Scotland and Wales in December 2022, with responding councils in a variety of locations, from “dense, urban” to rural areas.
Topics examined ranged from gigabit-capable broadband to 5G, smart places, telecoms and net zero.
According to the research, nearly all councils (97%) recognised the need to prioritise digital connectivity and the fundamental role it plays in their area’s competitiveness, and 100% felt “reasonably well” informed about digital connectivity coverage in the area.
However, only 43% of councils who responded have an up-to-date digital connectivity strategy, with around 12% having no digital connectivity strategy at all. A potential reason for this, according to 60% of councils, is that they want to make sure their area is fully covered by 4G before investing more heavily in 5G.
80% of digital leaders were also unsure how improved connectivity can reduce carbon emissions.
“There are still some areas for further development,” said Andre Muir, CEO. “The least progress was seen on ensuring digital connectivity is aligned with net-zero targets, suggesting this is an area that isn’t fully understood or resourced yet, despite the overwhelming majority of local authorities having declared climate emergencies in their area.”
Respondents said that a lack of funding from the government is namely the biggest barrier to improving connectivity, followed by deployment issues.
Muir said that an area where councils saw most improvement, unsurprisingly, was gigabit-enabled broadband due to government and industry lead initiatives in 2022.
However the study warned that many councils are not prepared for the upcoming telecoms switch-off, with more than 1 in 4 having no plans in place.
Additionally, as little as 43% of local authorities had deployed smart places technologies, such as Internet of Things, in their area, with 1 in 4 still questioning the benefits.
“My advice to local authorities would be to ensure they have an up-to-date connectivity strategy, and also to prioritise preparations for the telecoms switch-offs, as some of these changes are already happening,” said Muir.
With last week’s study suggesting that enterprises would go bust without reliable broadband and mobile connectivity, statistics show that improvements need to start happening sooner rather than later.
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