After my recent blog welcoming the House of Lords report “Broadband for All” it was pointed out that the recommendations may also offer some “interesting” solutions to the way in business rates fall more heavily and uncertainly on new build networks.
First: The business rating valuation is based on market values. The market value of local access networks to dark fibre hubs in those rural areas that are uneconomic for BT and Virgin is surely below the level for rural property relief for essential services. It should therefore be relatively easy to organise a blanket exemption except where the effect is to open up serious growth opportunities. If so …
Second: one of the exemptions from business rating is that for enterprise zones. Would it not give a real boost to rural life if all those without current fibre access (except for the National Parks) were to be classified as enterprise zones? This proposal has interesting side effects and perhaps Parish Councils should have the right of veto, albeit at a week day meeting (no postal voting) between October and March when the second homers and nimbies are in London, Birmingham, Manchester or where-ever they commute from.
The time has, in any case, come for new thinking on how to kick start rural broadband roll-out after the Olympic break.
P.S. Two days into the Olympic Break I got a call on my domestic phone line offering me BT Inifinity. I had to ring another number from the business line but I am looking forward to hearing when the engineers will arrive to upgrade my BT Business broadband services, presumably after the games are over and the teams on standby are ready for the local mass roll out programme. A week before, my son had been surfing the Internet (for bus, ferry and train times) over his Galaxy from a hill top on Mull. I was agreeably surprised because the last time I tried, using a laptop, even the best line of site speed was too slow for more than downloading e-mails. I should, however, add that it was after several attempt from locations where he had thought he would get a signal but appears to have had no better service than I had in previous years.