Gigabit broadband funding targets over two million homes and businesses

Digital infrastructure upgrades planned for rural and hard-to-reach areas to support post-pandemic economic growth and improve home connectivity

As it rolls out Project Gigabit, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said 2.2 million rural homes and businesses would benefit from the £5bn broadband upgrade scheme. The roll-out will cover 1,850,000 additional premises across 26 counties including Yorkshire, Staffordshire and Kent. This follows on from previously announced gigabit funding in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

According to the DCMS, the government’s Project Gigabit fund to upgrade digital infrastructure in hard-to-reach areas will accelerate the country’s recovery from the pandemic and support high-growth sectors such as tech and the creative industries.

The DCMS said the UK was also on track for the fastest roll-out in Europe this year, with 60% of all households set to have access to gigabit speeds by the end of this year.

Digital secretary Oliver Dowden said: “Project Gigabit is our national mission to level up rural areas by giving them the fastest internet speeds on the market. Millions more rural homes and businesses will now be lifted out of the digital slow lane thanks to our mammoth £5bn investment and one of the quickest roll-outs in Europe.”

Work on the first Project Gigabit contracts awarded for new gigabit infrastructure is set to begin in May 2022. This will provide high-speed internet connectivity to 349,000 premises in Essex, Dorset, Cumbria, Cambridgeshire, Northumberland, Durham, Tyneside, Teesside and Cornwall. 

“Project Gigabit is our national mission to level up rural areas by giving them the fastest internet speeds on the market”
Oliver Dowden, DCMS

DCMS also confirmed that the Scottish and Welsh governments and 15 English councils have made at least an extra £26m available in top-ups to the government’s Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme. The scheme covers the cost of providing gigabit connections in areas that are particularly difficult to reach, while the top-ups boost the financial help available.

Some 47,000 homes and businesses are now plugged in to gigabit broadband as a result of the scheme, with a further 38,000 in the pipeline and millions of pounds in vouchers still available for people to claim.

In June, the Gigabit Take-up Advisory Group: Final Report found that consumers were unaware of gigabit broadband and unclear of the perceived benefits, with two in five (41%) unclear about how it differed from their current package.

The report identified affordability as a key barrier to the adoption of gigabit-capable broadband for low-income households, revealing that just over two-fifths (44%) of those in a low-income household cited it as an issue. Other barriers identified in the report were the low willingness among consumers to pay more, with only about one in five (21%) people willing to pay more for gigabit-capable broadband.

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