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London-based fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband supplier Community Fibre has received a £25m funding package to help it roll out ultrafast services to 100,000 homes across the capital in the next 12 months.
The latest round of funding comes in part from Community Fibre’s main backer, pension fund RPMI Railpen, which is contributing £7m, and the National Digital Infrastructure Fund (NDIF), a privately run fund backed in part by £400m of government cash from the Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund, which is contributing £18m.
Community Fibre hopes to pass 500,000 homes with an ultrafast full-fibre service by 2022, and said its latest round of financing put it well on track to meet that aim.
“This investment shows full-fibre is the only way forward for ultra-fast connectivity. Community Fibre is the partner of choice to deliver high-quality, fast pure fibre connections, to deliver sustainable investment and to support government policy across the UK,” said chief executive Jeremy Chelot.
“This funding takes us a step closer to have our full-fibre network available to social housing or private landlords in every borough in London. Last month, we were ranked as the fastest internet service provider in the UK and we have a track record of delivering quality service to all customers at truly affordable rates.
“In addition to the homes we are connecting, thousands of people will benefit from this investment through the community engagement and upskilling programmes we run on all our instalment projects,” he added.
The supplier will target multiple-occupancy dwellings, with social and publicly owned housing developments – where access to ultrafast connectivity can potentially play a critical role in unlocking economic opportunities in the UK’s most disadvantaged and diverse communities.
Khalid Naqib, senior investment director at Amber Infrastructure, which runs the NDIF and also invests in areas such as education, health and transport, said: “As long-term, responsible partners to the public sector, our aim is to mobilise capital effectively to scale up the digital infrastructure that is so critical to the UK’s economic future. NDIF’s investment will help deliver gigabit connectivity to London’s local communities and secure appropriate returns for our investors, one of which is the UK taxpayer.”
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- The Local Government Association has urged housing developers to adopt proposals for a fibre-to-the-premises broadband kitemark for new-build homes in rural areas.
- Ofcom set the task of implementing the rules that ensure everyone in the UK can access affordable high-speed broadband by 2020.
- Residents of the remote village of Balquhidder in Stirlingshire have banded together to roll out a full-fibre broadband network at just half the cost of a normal fibre network build.
Exchequer secretary to the Treasury, Robert Jenrick, added: “Today’s investment shows how we are delivering better broadband for Londoners who will benefit from fast connections. As we increasingly live our lives online, it is vital our digital connections can support this. We want to see full-fibre broadband rolled out across the UK as quickly as possible, and to support a competitive private sector in delivering that objective. That’s why we created the Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund, which is boosting the roll-out of full-fibre to enable people to live and work flexibly and productively, without connections failing.”
Community Fibre’s most recent expansion covered several estates in the City of Westminster, where it made a point of hiring staff from the area and providing free connectivity to community services such as primary schools and libraries. On one estate, it said it had managed to save the residents’ association £1,400 in 12 months, which can now be used elsewhere.
John Wyatt, chair of Churchill Gardens Residents Association, said he had not been convinced by the idea of full-fibre at first.
“From someone who … [was] wary of the impact the installations would have on our estate, which is a conservation area full of listed buildings, I have nothing but great words to say about Community Fibre. Their team has been professional with all the works carried out and respectful of our estate, leaving it just as they found it,” he said.