The UK’s Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) has announced the launch of the GBP200 million (USD254 million) Rural Gigabit Connectivity (RGC) programme to support gigabit-capable full fibre broadband rollouts to rural and remote locations, initially prioritising sites in Cornwall, Cumbria, Northumberland and Pembrokeshire. Additional sites in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England will be announced in the coming months. The two-year RGC programme – funded by the National Infrastructure Productivity Fund (NPIF) under a budget set last October – will trial a model connecting local public sector buildings, starting with primary schools. Working with the Department for Education, DCMS has identified the first 31 schools eligible for connection, with other public buildings to be added over the project’s duration, e.g. health sites and community halls. The RGC scheme also has a rural gigabit broadband voucher component, offering up to GBP3,500 for small businesses and up to GBP1,500 for residents to encourage take-up.
Last year the government identified that 10% of UK premises, largely in rural and remote areas, were unlikely to gain gigabit connectivity by 2033 – its target year for nationwide ‘full fibre’ coverage. To address this, the RGC project was designed to complement the government’s Superfast Broadband and Local Full Fibre Networks programmes under the Building Digital UK (BDUK, renamed from Broadband Delivery UK) banner, and will not overlap with areas where a gigabit-capable solution is already available or will be delivered through these existing interventions. These three BDUK schemes will now be aligned under ‘The UK Fibre Programme’.