UK gigabit broadband furthers reach

DSIT releases figures showing 2023 state-funded investment of more than £500m in gigabit connectivity, boosting broadband for over 330,000 hard-to-reach homes and businesses across the country

As it continues its programme to work with broadband suppliers to achieve 85% gigabit coverage of the UK by 2025, and then to nationwide coverage by 2030, the UK government has revealed new contracts for Project Gigabit that it has invested £530m in the broadband industry over the course of 2023, bringing broadband to over 330,000 hard-to-reach homes and businesses across the country.

Project Gigabit was introduced in 2021 to accelerate the UK’s recovery from Covid-19, fire up high-growth sectors such as tech and the creative industries, and level up the country, spreading wealth and creating jobs across Britain. On its launch, the UK government said it would prioritise areas that currently have slow connections and would otherwise be left behind in broadband companies’ plans.

The delivery plan for Project Gigabit is a response by the UK government to its public consultation, Planning for gigabit delivery in 2021, which sought views on how to spend its £5bn funding commitment for gigabit broadband in hard-to-reach areas, complementing industry investment from the likes of Openreach and Virgin Media O2 to ensure such areas benefit from the same gigabit broadband as the rest of the country.

The latest Project Gigabit contracts will see more than 17,000 homes and businesses across rural Derbyshire connected to the fastest broadband speeds on the market, backed by £33m in new government investment and expected to start by summer 2024. They join homes and businesses across Shropshire, Cambridgeshire, New Forest, Norfolk, Suffolk, Hampshire, North East Staffordshire and Oxfordshire who have been awarded contracts this year to upgrade their broadband connections.

Local residents living in hard-to-reach communities in places such as Staveley in Cumbria, Barnard Castle in Teesdale and Bishop’s Caundle in North Dorset were among the first to get connected this year through the government’s contracts with suppliers in these regions.  

The government added that the new connectivity will also help to boost online efficiency and productivity for businesses to pave the way for new opportunities and further economic growth.

The new contracts also coincide with the publication of a report from Building Digital UK (BDUK) that 929,700 premises in mostly hard-to-reach areas of the UK now have access to gigabit connectivity thanks to government investment with 79% of premises across the UK are currently able to access gigabit-capable broadband, up from 6% in early 2019.

“The progress of Project Gigabit this year has seen us take significant strides in delivering modern connectivity throughout the UK,” said the minister for data and digital Infrastructure, John Whittingdale.

“As we approach Christmas, I hope the ability to obtain gigabit broadband speeds will bring joy to households and will continue to deliver new opportunities for generations to come. Our commitment to advancing digital infrastructure highlights our dedication to creating a connected and thriving future for all.”

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