Report highlights untapped telecoms and digital capacity
The government has published details of more than 13,000 miles of publicly owned digital communications infrastructure that could be used to improve connectivity around the country.
A Cabinet Office Interim Landscape Report includes a series of maps showing fibre networks and wireless points of presence for public sector infrastructure, including the Janet education and research network, High Integrity Telecoms System, National Roads Telecommunications Service, National Rail Telecoms, Defence Fixed Telecommunications Service and N3 health and social care network.
The report says that using spare capacity on the infrastructure could improve access to high speed broadband, address mobile phone not-spots, and provide better value for taxpayers. It says that more than 20 proposals are being investigated, including the potential to place mobile phone masts on some of the 1,000-plus government owned buildings to boost signal reception.
While it focuses on central government, it asks for other public sector bodies to identify their infrastructure and contribute to extending coverage.
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said: "In the past, government didn't even know what telecoms and digital infrastructure the public sector itself owned. Our new maps reveal taxpayer-funded networks stretching right across the country.
"We will work with providers to exploit spare capacity while joining up our own approach, so more people can access high speed broadband and better mobile phone coverage."
The report provides an early step in beefing up the UK's digital infrastructure for homes and businesses, but it is a scoping exercise that does not touch on the potential barriers to making public sector assets more widely available. There is potential for wider sharing of infrastructure within the public sector, but it is unclear if it should be mandatory or voluntary.
There are also obvious questions about security and payment models for making it available to the private sector and the public.
Public Sector Telecommunications and Digital Infrastructure Maps: Interim Publication
Pictured: Transmitter by Paul Clarke © | paulclarke.com