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The government has kicked off the first stage of a £200m programme to address broadband connectivity in businesses, schools and hospitals, with the release of a £10m tranche of funding for six pilot fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) schemes around the country.
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The six projects will run in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, West Sussex, Coventry and Warwickshire, Bristol and Bath and North-East Somerset, West Yorkshire, and Greater Manchester, and will test innovative ways of connecting business and public sector properties to gigabit-capable FTTP broadband services.
The £200m funding pot was first announced by chancellor Philip Hammond during the Spring Budget, and is being drawn from a £740m slice of the £23bn National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) specifically set aside for digital infrastructure.
“How we live and work today is directly affected by how good our broadband connection is. Reliable connections enable new industries to flourish, help create jobs and give people flexibility in how and where they work,” said Andrew Jones, exchequer secretary to the Treasury.
“For our economy to thrive, it is vital we make smart investments to ensure our digital infrastructure is world class and fit for the future.
“Full fibre connections are the gold standard and we are proud to announce today the next step to get Britain better connected,” added Jones.
The government said it was moving ahead with the pilots after receiving 125 submissions from communications service providers (CSPs), local authorities and other interested parties during a call for evidence on extending local fibre networks.
Further details on how the £10m will be split between the six different projects will be made available in due course, a government spokesperson said.
Westminster’s new-found enthusiasm for FTTP broadband networks continues to show signs of being more than just talk. ... ... ... ...
At the end of August, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) began a consultation on plans to offer a five-year business rates holiday for CSPs investing in and building new FTTP networks. Back in July 2017, the government launched a £400m fund designed to help unlock £1bn of additional private sector investment in FTTP.