Gigabit broadband: First areas to benefit from £5 billion

The government has announced the first stages of its plans to get gigabit broadband internet to the remotest of homes in the UK. 

Originally it had promised to roll out gigabit speed broadband internet to every home in Britain by 2025 but that was reduced to 85% coverage in November.

The budget remains at £5bn – but only £1.2bn of that will be made available up to 2024.

The infrastructure build should start in 2022, the government said.

The first to benefit will be homes and businesses in Cambridgeshire, Cornwall, Cumbria, Dorset, Durham, Essex, Northumberland, South Tyneside, and Tees Valley.

The next areas are expected to be Norfolk, Shropshire, Suffolk, Worcestershire, Hampshire, and the Isle of Wight.

A former voucher scheme is also being relaunched to provide more immediate help to those struggling with a poor broadband internet connection, with up to £210m being made available.

It is expected that commercial deployments of gigabit broadband, capable fiber networks will reach more than 70% of premises by the end of 2025, without government intervention.

The government has said that reaching the final 1% of homes in very remote areas could be prohibitively expensive.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson described Project Gigabit as “the rocket boost that we need to get lightning ultra-fast broadband internet to all areas of the country”.

The trade organization techUK has also welcomed the news.

And speaking on the BBC’s Today program, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Oliver Dowden said: “We’ve already made tremendous progress with Project Gigabit – our national mission to get everyone in the country the fastest broadband connection on the planet”.

“We’ve gone from around 9% coverage in 2019 to 40% now – I’m confident we’ll get to 60% by the end of the year.

“The challenge is the last 20%, which can’t be delivered commercially – and that’s what our plans being outlined today are all about.”

He reiterated the watered-down plans to reach “at least 85% of the country by 2025”.

“I think we will be able to go faster than that still – and the prime minister and I are meeting with telecoms companies again.

“Basically, we have the money to provide that subsidy, it’s about the capacity in the telecoms market to deliver it, because remember these are very remote areas.

The major gigabit broadband internet networks have been pressing the government to make clear how it planned to allocate the public money it’s set aside for Project Gigabit internet, so they’ll be relieved to get some detail.

But it’s still clear that the plan to put rural Britain in the ultra fast broadband internet fast lane is behind schedule.

At the 2019 election, the manifesto promise was to give every home and business a Gigabit broadband internet connection by the end of 2025. Last November that target was cut to 85% of premises, with just £1.2bn available in the short term.

Now that money is beginning to flow, but with Openreach’s chief executive emphasizing the need for speedy decisions, it seems there’s not complete confidence that even the more limited target will be hit.

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James Robert is a journalist who covers all the social media and tech-related news for SG-educate, the world's largest multimedia news agency. He reports on tech from all over the world, focusing mostly on social media platforms. He has worked as a digital editor and online coverage of global breaking news on tech and big stories, reaching millions of readers across multiple platforms.

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