The Government has confirmed that £200 million will be allocated to fund full fibre broadband connections in hard to reach areas across the UK, starting with all primary schools who would otherwise never have had access to high-quality broadband.
This will also allow us to test new approaches to fibre rollout in rural areas, benefiting tens of thousands of homes and businesses across the UK with the Borderlands, Cornwall, and Welsh valleys amongst the first areas to be targeted.
Earlier this year the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (FTIR) outlined plans to ensure that the country’s broadband infrastructure is fit for the future. This was backed up by the Chancellor who set ambitious targets for nationwide full fibre coverage by 2033.
The plans will see mostly competitive commercial investment made across the UK however the FTIR identified that around 10% of the country would need additional funding, from whatever source, of around £3 billion.
To ensure that the hardest to reach areas are not left behind an ‘outside-in’ approach will be needed to connect these areas at the same pace as the rest of the country.
DCMS Secretary of State Jeremy Wright said:
Through our modern Industrial Strategy it’s our ambition to have a full fibre Britain that is fit for the future. By changing our approach and investing in the hardest to reach places first, we will ensure that the whole country can reap the benefits of full fibre broadband.
The Rural Gigabit Connectivity Programme is the first step in this process, with funding coming from the National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF). The £200 million will trial models for local hubs in rural areas, starting with primary schools, alongside a voucher scheme for funding full fibre connectivity to nearby premises, providing full fibre connectivity to homes and businesses.
Making full fibre mandatory for new builds
Government has also kick started the process of making the provision of full fibre broadband compulsory for all new builds. New build developments are a clear case in which opportunities for boosting full fibre broadband coverage are not being seized. Whilst there are examples of the most proactive developers and network providers delivering good connectivity, sites with no, or slow, connections are inexcusable.
Minister for Digital Margot James said:
Too many new build homes are built with slow, or no, connections. This needs to change. Making full fibre mandatory for new builds will help us meet our ambitious broadband goals, connect people and places and strengthen our digital society.
Poor connections have a disproportionate impact on residents and communities. When people cannot work from home, pay bills online or run small businesses it is not just the individual who suffers; slow, unreliable connections hamper innovation, stop collaboration between groups and make it harder for local economies and communities to thrive.
To address this, Government plans to ensure delivery of gigabit-capable connections to all new build homes, reversing the trend of new build homes being associated with poor connections. The policy will also enable wider deployment of fibre technology across the UK, and a consultation published yesterday seeks views on:
- How developers and network operators should share the cost of connecting new build sites to gigabit-capable networks
- Introducing a ‘duty to connect’ provision upon network operators
- Amending building regulations which will mean all new build sites will be built with the necessary infrastructure in place to support gigabit-capable networks