Digital

Two million homes and businesses to benefit in £5bn broadband upgrade

Millions of people in rural England will get access to the fastest broadband speeds on the market as part of a £5bn plan to level up internet access across the UK.

The government’s Project Gigabit fund to upgrade digital infrastructure in hard-to-reach areas will accelerate the country’s recovery from Covid-19, the government said.

They also said it will fire up high-growth sectors, such as tech and the creative industries, put an end to families battling for bandwidth and bring the speed and reliability people need to start and run businesses.

New 
details published reveal that up to 1.85 million additional premises across 26 English counties will get access to gigabit speed internet of 1,000 megabits per second.

This is enough to download a HD movie in less than 30 seconds and lay the foundations for next generation tech, such as 8K-quality video streaming.

It brings the current total number of premises in scope for government-funded coverage to 2.2 million, with more still to be announced over the coming months across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

This is in addition to the tens of millions of premises that broadband firms are rapidly connecting through their commercial rollout, from one in ten households in 2019 to more than two in five today.

The UK is also on track for the fastest rollout in Europe this year and for 60% of all households to have access to gigabit speeds by the end of the year.

The government is also on track to hit its target of achieving at least 85% gigabit-capable UK coverage by 2025 and Ministers are ready to go as fast as broadband companies can manage.

Commenting, Digital Secretary, Oliver Dowden said:

“Project Gigabit is our national mission to level up rural areas by giving them the fastest internet speeds on the market.

“Millions more rural homes and businesses will now be lifted out of the digital slow lane thanks to our mammoth £5bn investment and one the quickest rollouts in Europe.

“This broadband revolution will create jobs, power up businesses and allow everyone to access vital services at lightning fast speed, helping us build back better from the pandemic.”

Almost half a million (480,000) premises in Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Norfolk, Shropshire, Suffolk and Worcestershire will be among the first to benefit.

This will be followed by counties, including Derbyshire, Gloucestershire, Hertfordshire, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire, Surrey, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Yorkshire respectively.

The news follows a raft of Project Gigabit updates benefiting all four nations of the UK.

£24m funding to roll out gigabit broadband in ten local authority areas in Northern Ireland and 234,000 homes and businesses in Wales have been confirmed as in scope to receive upgrades through the programme.

As well as this, £4.5m worth of funding will help thousands in central Scotland get next-generation connections.

On top of this, it has also been confirmed that the Scottish and Welsh governments and 15 English councils have made at least an extra £26m available in top-ups to the UK 
Government’s Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme.

The scheme, which is available nationwide, covers the costs of a gigabit connection in areas that are particularly difficult to reach and the top-ups boost the financial help available.

There are 47,000 homes and businesses now plugged in to gigabit broadband as a result of the scheme, with a further 38,000 in the pipeline and millions of pounds in vouchers still available for people to claim.

Under the fund, a cornerstone of the Prime Minister’s plan to build back better, the government said they are investing in areas left behind by the industry’s roll out plans due to the expense and lack of a commercial incentive to connect them to gigabit-capable networks.

The 
first Project Gigabit contracts announced in March are expected to commence from May next year, with spades hitting the ground soon afterwards.

This includes 349,000 premises in Cambridgeshire, Cornwall, Cumbria, Dorset, Durham, Essex, Northumberland, Teesside and Tyneside.

Many more areas are due for upgrades under the scheme and will be announced later this year, with hundreds of thousands more homes and businesses set to benefit.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Steve Barclay added:

“The pandemic has seen more services offered online and more businesses and consumers wanting to use online services, in particular from home.

“This announcement, enabling over two million homes to have the fastest internet services will make a real difference to those businesses and consumers wanting to maximise the benefits of digital services.”

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