Over the coming years, the big focus for both the government and industry when it comes to connectivity will be getting ultrafast, full fibre broadband into as many homes and businesses as possible.
This technology is vital if the UK is to finally end its reliance on legacy copper infrastructure that has been in place for decades and to give businesses the tools they need to compete in today’s digital economy.
As part of this, the government has officially kicked off a new £200 million scheme that will see gigabit-capable full fibre broadband brought to some of the most rural parts of the UK.
It is part of a commitment to ensure every home and business in the country is able to access this technology by 2033. However, research previously undertaken by the Department for Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS) has suggested up to ten per cent of UK properties may miss out on commercial rollouts – often because they are deemed too remote to be cost-effective for private firms.
Govt aims to close the connectivity gap
Therefore, the government has launched its new Rural Gigabit Connectivity (RGC) programme to close this gap. This is the first stage of an ‘outside-in’ strategy for the deployment of full fibre connectivity that aims to ensure these areas are not left behind.
The initial investment of £200 million will last for two years and initially focus on areas in Cornwall, Cumbria, Northumberland and Pembrokeshire that the government has identified as high priority. Further rural locations across the UK will be announced in the coming months.
Launching the scheme, DCMS secretary of state Jeremy Wright said: “Our decision to tackle some of the hardest to reach places first is a significant shift in government policy and will be instrumental in delivering our plans for a nationwide full fibre broadband network by 2033.”
While the RGC programme will complement other efforts to improve the UK’s connectivity, such as Superfast Broadband and Local Full Fibre Networks, it will not overlap with areas where gigabit-capable solutions are already available or are planned to be delivered through these existing interventions.
Rural affairs minister Lord Gardiner said: “This funding will make sure that rural businesses, homes and communities can get online and make the most of the opportunities digital connectivity provides. I am determined to champion rural communities and drive forward full fibre broadband connections in the most hard to reach areas across the UK.”
Bringing full fibre to rural schools
A key feature of the RGC programme will be how it focuses on using public buildings as local hubs for gigabit connectivity, which can then be extended out to nearby areas. The first such hubs will be installed in 31 primary schools, with other locations including health sites and community halls to be added through the course of the programme.
This will offer the added advantage of bringing ultrafast broadband to many classrooms that would otherwise miss out on the latest connectivity, allowing whole classes to connect to the internet simultaneously as part of structured lessons. It will also enable greater access to cloud computing services, allowing schools to go paperless and decommission local servers to reduce hardware, maintenance and IT support costs.
Education secretary Damian Hinds added: “In most parts of the country a fast, reliable internet connection is taken for granted – but that is not the case for everyone. This programme will mean that schools in these areas won’t be held back from accessing all of the opportunities the internet has to offer.”