Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Budget offers £200m boost to rural full fibre broadband

A further £200 million of government funding has been allocated to support the rollout of better broadband technology as part of Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond's latest Budget, unveiled yesterday (October 29th).

The money will go towards replacing ageing copper lines with faster fibre-optic cables, and will aim to bring full-fibre capabilities to more rural areas that have so far been underserved by the latest internet technology.

It will come from the National Productivity Infrastructure Fund and is intended to act as a stimulus to help private companies invest in full fibre networks.

The initial funds will be targeted at primary schools, with nearby homes and businesses also set to benefit through an extension of the government's existing voucher scheme.

Locations in Cornwall, Wales and the Scottish Borders will be the first parts of the UK to benefit from these investments.

In his speech, Mr Hammond stressed the importance of better networks in supporting the UK's digital economy. "We are investing in our nation’s infrastructure and backing the technologies of the future," he said.

The government's ultimate aim is to completely replace the UK's copper network with fibre by 2033, and while this week's announcement will only go a small way to achieving this goal  - with the total cost of the scheme estimated to be as much as £30 billion - the funding has been welcomed as a positive first step.

The Financial Times reported that Jeremy Chelot, Chief Executive of urban broadband company Community Fibre, praised the "decisive steps" the government has taken toward the rollout of full-fibre lines, while Paul Stobart, Chief Executive of broadband provider Zen, said rural connectivity remained the “missing part of the puzzle" for improving the UK's digital capabilities.

However, others have called on the government to do more to support the deployment of full fibre networks, with Openreach describing the Budget as a missed opportunity to stimulate investment in fibre lines by reducing business rates for the technology.

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