Connectivity

Are rural areas eligible to receive gigabit-capable broadband?

Last week, I attended the Connected North conference in Manchester. One of the key discussions centred around gigabit rollout and how programmes like Project Gigabit will impact businesses and homes. Paul Renshall, managing partner of WeFibre (part of the Telcom Group) discussed the ways on developing gigabit-capable broadband networks for Northern UK.

Paul’s focus at WeFibre is to deliver solutions and promote investment within alternative fibre networks (altnets), like us at ClearFibre. Paul inspired me to delve deeper into rural areas and find out how individuals experiencing slow broadband speeds in hard to reach areas can enjoy fast and reliable digital connectivity.

What is Project Gigabit?

Telecoms regulator Ofcom have stated that as of September 2021, 46% of the UK had a gigabit-capable broadband connection. This means that download speeds will soar to more than 1 gigabit per second (1,000 megabits per second).

The government has launched a new £5bn infrastructure project that promises to deliver gigabit broadband to more than one million hard-to-reach homes and business in the UK.

Project Gigabit is a UK-wide programme, as telecommunications is now considered an integral part in a person’s daily life. The programme aims to rollout speeds of at least 1 gigabit per second. This will essentially mean that individuals will no longer have to argue over their internet connection and will give families in rural areas the chance to work from home and live freely.

Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme

It has been estimated that around 20% of hard-to-reach areas will require public funding to deliver gigabit-capable broadband.

A voucher scheme for businesses and residents who are eligible in rural areas has been introduced to subsidise the cost of rolling out gigabit-capable connections. Up to £210m will be given to those who are eligible that need immediate financial help to provide gigabit-capable speeds. This scheme will be implemented through broadband service providers like WeFibre who have registered to provide hyper fast broadband connections through the scheme.

Vouchers will help cover the cost of installing gigabit broadband to individual’s homes and doorsteps. Up to £1,500 will be offered for homes and £3,500 for businesses.

During the discussion at Connected North, Paul and his fellow guest speakers from other altnets were voicing their struggles when it comes to the voucher scheme. Many alternative internet providers are receiving millions of pounds worth of vouchers and investments to aid in them in rolling out full fibre to the premises in rural and remote communities. However, due to the government’s decision to pause the voucher scheme in some regions like Northumberland and Cumbria, many altnets feel as though their projects have and will be put at risk.

Is Project Gigabit a useful programme?

Overall, rural areas will receive many benefits from Project Gigabit. Offering gigabit-capable broadband in rural areas which are known to have poor broadband connections will completely change the lifestyles of the individuals that live and work in these areas. Additionally, the voucher scheme seems a beneficial way to provide gigabit-capable broadband to rural areas. However, the governments decision to pause the voucher scheme in some areas have had a negative impact on altnets who rollout the networks.

From a developer’s perspective, providing ultrafast broadband speeds in hard to reach areas will stand high above the rest in areas previously stricken with slow connection speeds. This can be a huge selling point for new developments and the voucher scheme offers an appropriate method for altnets to fund these projects.

 

Ceyda Tabak is client executive at ClearFibre, part of the Telcom Group. Please get in touch: ceyda.tabak@clearfibre.uk

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