Michael Leckie/Virgin Media

UK government claims added momentum for Project Gigabit

Record £714m said to have been committed to boosting UK rural fixed broadband coverage in 2024

Data published by the UK government has revealed that since the start of 2024, access to fast and reliable broadband connectivity is increasing at an unprecedented speed, putting nearly 380,000 rural premises in line to access a better broadband connection with what it claims is a record £714m invested in the broadband roll-out so far this year.

As part of the investment, the government also announced £166m in contracts to build full-fibre networks in areas spanning South Yorkshire, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Herefordshire, the Forest of Dean, the Peak District, Dorset, and Somerset.

The funding forms part of the government’s flagship £5bn Project Gigabit programme, 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 government said it would prioritise areas with slow connections that would otherwise be left behind in broadband companies’ plans and give rural communities access to the fastest internet on the market, helping to grow the economy.

Over £1.3bn has already been invested in Project Gigabit contracts, and nearly 82% of properties across the UK can now access gigabit broadband, up from just 7% this time five years ago. Almost 90,000 premises are set to benefit from the new contracts, with full-fibre connections capable of delivering speeds of up to 1,000 megabits per second. This is up to 30 times faster than superfast connections relying on traditional copper cables.  

The government said its investment has seen over one million rural homes, businesses and public buildings already upgraded to gigabit-capable networks. In addition, it has awarded separate contracts to connect up to 800 primary schools in England, jointly funded through Project Gigabit and the Department for Education.

The Schools Gigabit Connectivity Project, jointly funded by the Department for Education and Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, will help students and teachers access the latest digital technology in education.

Read more about UK gigabit

  • Ogi, MS3 push altnet-delivered gigabit Britain: Wales and north of England-based gigabit broadband networks providers reveal strategies to cash in on accelerated roll-out of full-fibre gigabit services to businesses and homes alike.
  • Marked growth in UK broadband proves elusive in 2023: Quarterly study from specialist comms analyst finds persistent challenging macro-economic conditions acting as headwind for overall fixed and wireless broadband market in final quarter of 2023, but with fibre still a shining light.
  • Four-fifths of UK gains access to gigabit broadband: Drive by leading commercial players and Project Gigabit programme sees milestone for gigabit broadband in UK including access for almost a million premises in so-called hard-to-reach places.
  • Project Gigabit ‘failing to deliver’: Research finds half of UK homes with unusable broadband have yet to receive funding from flagship government scheme to develop gigabit connectivity across UK, especially hard-to-reach areas.

In March 2024, the UK government awarded leading communications provider BT a multimillion-pound contract to connect more than 650 schools with “lightning fast” broadband, aiming to transform the learning experience for pupils. The schools are located in rural and urban settings that are difficult to reach under commercial broadband roll-out schemes.

“Connectivity has never been more important for people and businesses,” said UK minister for data and digital Julia Lopez. “It is increasingly becoming the enabler for so many services that we rely on every day, from using maps to doing business.

“The figures published today demonstrate how rapidly we are delivering higher quality gigabit broadband to every part of the country – even some of the most remote rural areas,” she said. “Whether that be for a business on the coast of Cornwall or the hills of the Peak District, patchy and poor connection should never be a barrier to economic growth or somebody’s life chances.”

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