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Fibre broadband business rates relief rules finalised

Telecoms companies installing new fibre broadband networks in England will not have to pay business rates on impacted land under new laws set to come into force later this month.04 Apr 2018

The rates relief available will apply to 'new fibre' that was "laid, flown, blown, affixed or attached" on or after 1 April 2017. The relief will apply for five years from that date.

UK chancellor Philip Hammond first announced that the government would provide 100% business rates relief for new fibre infrastructure in his autumn statement of 2016.

The government subsequently consulted on the implementation of the measure in 2017, and powers to introduce the relief were provided for in The Telecommunications Infrastructure (Relief from Non-Domestic Rates) Act, which obtained Royal Assent on 8 February this year.

The legislation containing details of the design of the new relief, The Non-Domestic Rating (Telecommunication Infrastructure Relief) (England) Regulations 2018, was laid before parliament on 29 March and is due to come into force on 20 April.

Alongside the new regulations, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government published a summary of responses it received to its 2017 consultation and its own response (6-page / 416KB PDF) to the feedback received.

According to the ministry, the measure is designed to "support the rollout of fibre connectivity for broadband and future 5G communications to homes and businesses".

The government's response also explained the scope of the new relief. It confirmed that the business rates relief would not be available to telecoms operators that bring 'dark fibre' into use on or after 1 April 2017 that they installed prior to that date.

Dark fibre is a term used to describe the dormant, unused additional optical cables that operators often install alongside their active network to allow for easier expansion of the capacity of their network in future. 

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government also clarified which land the business rates relief could be applied to.

It said: "The government considers that the certificate of rateable value should include the value of the land but only that land being the space within which the fibre and plant and machinery sits. The government does not consider that land which goes beyond those boundaries, such as land under or surrounding the new fibre, should be included in the certificate of value. The regulations have been amended to make this clearer."