Local authorities in the UK are being encouraged to bid for a share of GBP95 million (USD123 million) in funding that is being made available by the government to help underpin the rollout of full fibre connectivity across the country. The development follows a decision by the Chancellor of the Exchequer last year to make available more than GBP1 billion in funding to stimulate further and faster fibre deployments, and to drive the next generation of mobile connectivity. At the time, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) noted that as part of this, the state’s GBP190 million Local Full Fibre Networks (LFFN) Challenge Fund was launched to boost commercial investment in networks across the country.
Two rounds of funding have already been carried out, with a new process having now been designed to allocate the remaining GBP95 million from the LLFN fund. Successful projects in this, the third round of funding, will reportedly ‘enable gigabit capable connections to key public buildings and businesses and also encourage broadband providers to create additional connections to local homes and businesses’. The final decision on funding will be made by the LFFN investment panel, which will assess the proposals, placing particular importance on several areas, including: projects demonstrating the effectiveness of fibre delivery in rural locations and hard-to-reach areas; and projects which focus on overcoming obstacles to the commercial rollout of fibre and 5G. There will be no fixed date for formal submissions, with local bodies interested in bidding instead advised to submit an informal expression of interest to the programme. Government officials will reportedly then enter into a dialogue with them to assess their project and, where appropriate, help them shape their approach.
Commenting on the matter, Minister for Digital, Margot James said: ‘We recently set out our ambition for a nationwide full-fibre broadband network by 2033, and initiatives like this will be instrumental in achieving that. We want to hear from any local authority interested in taking part, so we can work closely with them on their plans to help them secure funding.’