Whitehall announces £200m ‘rural broadband' programme


The Government yesterday announced that it has started to rollout gigabit-capable full fibre broadband to rural areas across the country. Last year, approximately 10% of UK premises, largely in remote areas, were judged to be unlikely to receive gigabit-capable connections commercially by 2033. However, the Rural Gigabit Connectivity (RGC) programme will ensure these hard-to-reach premises will be reached at the same time as the commercial roll out happens across the UK. ‘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,’ said secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport Jeremy Wright. ‘Our rollout of superfast broadband transformed the UK’s digital landscape, and our modern Industrial Strategy is focused on investing in the infrastructure that will make Britain fit for the future.’ The RGC is a two year, £200m programme that will focus on rural areas, starting with Cornwall, Cumbria, Northumberland and Pembrokeshire. Under the programme, public sector buildings – starting with 31 schools – will be upgraded with gigabit-capable connectivity. This will improve internet connection in the building, but will also encourage other suppliers to build more networks in the area. ‘In most parts of the country a fast, reliable internet connection is taken for granted – but that is not the case for everyone,’ said education secretary Damian Hinds. ‘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. ‘These first 31 schools will see the tangible benefits that fast broadband has to offer, from reducing teacher and staff workload, to improving access to high-quality learning resources.’ The RGC programme also has a rural gigabit broadband voucher component, offering up to £3,500 for small businesses and up to £1,500 for residents, in order to encourage greater take-up of gigabit-capable connectivity. Rural affairs minister Lord Gardiner commented: ‘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, helping to ensure no one living in our countryside is left behind.' 


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