More than one million hard to reach homes and businesses across the UK are to gain access to ‘next generation gigabit broadband’ in the first phase of a GBP5 billion (USD6.9 billion) government infrastructure project, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) has announced.
As part of ‘Project Gigabit’, the government body has confirmed that up to 510,000 homes and businesses in Cambridgeshire, Cornwall, Cumbria, Dorset, Durham, Essex, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Tees Valley will be the first to benefit. Contracts for these first areas will go to tender in ‘the spring’, with construction work to begin in the first half of 2022, the DCMS noted. Meanwhile, the DCMS has said that in June 2021 the government expects to announce the next procurements to connect up to 640,000 premises in Norfolk, Shropshire, Suffolk, Worcestershire, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. According to the DCMS, the government-funded projects will prioritise areas that currently have slow connections and which would otherwise have been left behind in broadband companies’ commercial rollout plans.
Alongside these plans, it has also been confirmed that the ‘Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme’ is being relaunched, with up to GBP210 million to be set aside to provide financial assistance in obtaining gigabit-capable connections for people in eligible rural areas. First launched in March 2018, the scheme provides eligible areas across the UK with vouchers to cover the installation costs of bringing gigabit connectivity to homes and businesses, with more than 66,000 vouchers worth up to GBP127 million issued to premises across the UK to date. The new vouchers will be worth up to GBP1,500 for residential users and up to GBP3,500 for businesses, and will be available from 8 April 2021.
Finally, the British government has said it is making up to GBP110 million available to connect public sector buildings – such as GP surgeries, libraries and schools – to fibre in the hardest to reach parts of the UK.
Commenting, the UK’s Digital Secretary, Oliver Dowden, was cited as saying: ‘Project Gigabit is our national mission to plug in and power up every corner of the UK and get us gigafit for the future. We have already made rapid progress, with almost 40% of homes and businesses now able to access next-generation gigabit speeds, compared to just 9% in 2019. Now we are setting out our plans to invest GBP5 billion in remote and rural areas so that no one is left behind by the connectivity revolution. That means no more battling over the bandwidth, more freedom to live and work anywhere in the country, and tens of thousands of new jobs created as we deliver a game-changing infrastructure upgrade.’