Digital infrastructure’s goal is to build a full-fibre broadband network for 1 million premises by 2027.
This equates to roughly 3% of the available market in the UK. Aiming to solve the need for increasing public demand for faster broadband, Charlie Ruddy – CEO of full-fibre network builder Digital Infrastructure and its sister company, BeFibre – has a proven track record driving business growth, major change, organisational restructuring, and cost transformation agendas. When you think about HD streaming, gaming, downloading, video calling and homeworking to name a few, these all require bullet-proof broadband connections to function with efficacy.
A strategic leader with over 30 years’ experience in the telecommunications, electric, water, gas and highways industries, Charlie takes some time out to chat to Business Matters …
What products or services do you provide?
Our programme is about future-proofing our nation and creating an environment for people to work, live and play, and enhancing their connectivity experiences. We want to build a legacy where we positively impact on both society and the economy in equal measure.
What type of businesses do you work with?
As we already know, faster and more reliable connectivity will improve lives – supporting businesses, schools, healthcare, public services and much more. Our mission is to facilitate wholesale connectivity to multiple businesses and consumers, and we believe provision of a high-speed connection that is always on and reliable, creates outcomes that positively impact all parts of society.
What is your USP?
Because we were founded in 2021, legacy technology doesn’t hold us back – which means we can quickly innovate in a fast-moving market. This provides us with an edge that we’re proud of.
What are your company values?
We recently defined these as part of a brand building project with our digital marketing agency. They are: Be proud, Be awesome, Be bold, and Be customer-focused.
How do you ensure that you recruit a team that reflects your company values?
Being a remote-first organisation doesn’t limit us in terms of the talent pool and, thanks to the recent brand work we invested in, we can be incredibly clear about what our company stands for, our values, and the people we want to surround ourselves with during the recruitment process.
Are you happy to offer a hybrid working model of home/office post-covid?
We’re primarily home-workers – but we do come together in the office regularly to collaborate. The reason behind this was simple – we wanted to recruit the very brightest tech talent from across the UK. Our colleagues stretch from the ‘deep south’ of England, across to the Northwest, where our head office is, and we find it works really well for us.
Do you have any tips for managing suppliers and customers effectively?
Across the landscape, I think it’s important that the language we use is consistent throughout the industry, so partners, suppliers, and customers don’t feel confused – this is an educative piece that we’re all responsible for. That’s the best place to start if we’re to provide hyper-speed connectivity.
Any finance or cash-flow tips for new businesses starting out?
If you’re an investment-backed business, like ours, it’s important that you see yourselves as custodians of those funds – and spend them wisely, as you would your own money. Also, bad news needs to travel first class. Therefore, a robust governance and reporting function, which measure key metrics within the business, should be tasked with reporting the truth at all times.
If you could ask one thing of the government to change for businesses what would it be?
Broadband has become a fourth utility – meaning it’s just as fundamental as water, gas and electricity, particularly for businesses in the UK. As such, the VAT should be at a reduced rate of 5% if eligible – as it is for the rest of the utility market.
What is your attitude towards your competitors?
We’re incredibly transparent about our build plan because we know that it’s all about putting the customer’s needs first. And what they truly want is an honest provider that works at pace and doesn’t break its promises as it delivers fast, reliable FTTP connectivity.
It would be the dream if we could all work together to achieve the common goal, and futureproof the UK’s connectivity – collaboration between altnets vs. a race to ‘land-grab’ areas in the heat of the moment is what’s needed to secure a ‘fit-for-the-future’ infrastructure.
Any thoughts on the future of your company and your dreams?
I believe there is more to do within the industry itself in order to nurture transparency, trust and ways of working together to deliver the UK’s wider connectivity objectives, rather than each organisation focusing on their own commercial outcomes.
My dream would be to get business leaders from across the fibre ecosystem in a room to establish why there is four-times more funding to build the network, and yet we still won’t hit the Government’s timeline of full gigabit capable coverage by 2025. A good starting point should be thinking less about overbuilding to ‘win the network race’ and more about how we can work together to tackle the digital divide.