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Stronger digital infrastructure could add billions to UK economy

The economy could get a multi-billion-pound boost if the government takes immediate action to ensure the UK is ‘match-fit’ for the digital revolution by improving connectivity.

The CBI’s latest report – Ready, Set, Connect – warned that ensuring the UK has a stronger digital infrastructure is just one area of domestic policy which risks being overshadowed by Brexit.

The CBI said that businesses have largely welcomed the government’s ambitious target of rolling out 5G nationwide by 2027 and full-fibre by 2033. But without government action on funding and policy in 2019, it said firms of all sizes will be at risk of losing their competitive edge internationally.

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The CBI’s report highlighted key actions for policymakers to deliver on their vision to achieve a ‘buffer-free’ digital future and make the UK the top place to start and grow a digital business.

These include fast-track laws that ensure every new property has access to gigabit broadband and give companies permission to access land or property to install connections for private tenants by 2019.

All new government infrastructure projects must also include full fibre broadband capacity through the setting up of a cross-government ‘Fibre and 5G Taskforce’. In addition, 5G adoption should be turbo-charged by raising awareness of its uses to businesses and by helping firms to learn more about how to better exploit the technology through government trials.

The CBI said world-class 5G technology could potentially add up to £173bn to the UK economy by 2030.

“In today’s world, digital connectivity matters more than ever – if data is the new oil, then digital connectivity is the pipe that transports it. Seamless connections, from full fibre networks to 5G, offer unprecedented opportunities for businesses and consumers across the UK,” said Matthew Fell, CBI UK chief policy director.

“Our country is already home to hundreds of thousands of innovative technological firms, both start-ups and large enterprises.  Business models and workplaces are changing, and more people are either working from a coffee shop, their home or office.  They are the backbone of our economy and they all rely on fast and reliable digital connectivity to run their businesses successfully.

“Action needs to be taken now to unleash our digital economy which is already worth nearly £184 billion. This means the government must unlock investment, update the law to help everyone get access to gigabit broadband and spur businesses to adopt new technologies.”

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