Broadband bills could go up due to Government's 2025 gigabit internet target

Mike Wright
·2-min read
Telecomms engineer - Iain MacDonald/PA
Telecomms engineer - Iain MacDonald/PA

Broadband bills could go up due to the Government's target  of rolling out gigabit-capable internet across the UK by 2025, a minister has admitted.

Matt Warman, the minister for digital infrastructure, warned that households could be hit by "modest" rises as telecoms companies looked to recoup the cost of getting new cable into the ground.

Appearing before the culture select committee on Tuesday, Mr Warman was also questioned over whether the Government's 2025 deadline, which it had described in its manifesto as "hard" to hit, was now "meaningless guff" due the delays caused by Covid and the Huawei ban.

Ministers have pledged £5 billion to deliver on the target by paying broadband companies to lay cable in the hardest to reach rural areas. The Government is also bringing in legislation to make it easier for telecoms companies to get permission to install wiring in flats and along land where the ownership is unclear.

Mr Warman said the Government was clearing the way for the industry to roll out the bulk of the new ultra-fast network itself, but that the investment could lead to higher charges.

He said: "I think what we are likely to see is modest rises that are in line with what we have seen historically."

The minister added that he felt prices would not rise too sharply, partly as people would soon be able to completely ditch having a WiFi connection as super fast 5G mobile signal improved – a trend he said was already being seen among students.  

MPs grilled Mr Warman on whether the Government is still on target to hit the 2025 target, following delays caused by Covid restrictions and the decision to remove all Huawei kit from the UK network. He declined to be drawn, saying only that his department was "straining every sinew" to achieve it. 

However, he accepted the characterisation of the 2025 manifesto pledge as a "stretch goal", an American management term describing an almost impossibly ambitious target used to "galvanise" an organisation.

"No responsible manager would set a stretch goal that is completely unachievable and it is right that we are ambitious," he said. "If you want to characterise it as a stretch goal then that is fine by me, but it is a stretch goal that we are more than capable of meeting."