Almost 500,000 premises across the UK have been connected to gigabit-capable broadband since summer 2018. This is part of a £1 billion government funding commitment until the end of 2021, with a further £5 billion for the hardest-to-reach areas to be earmarked soon.
It means that, alongside commercial investment, more than 7.5 million premises can now access gigabit capable broadband, compared to around 1.4 million premises two years ago.
Nearly 45,000 vouchers, worth more than £90 million, have been issued to subsidise the cost of building faster, gigabit-capable broadband infrastructure to homes and businesses.
The figures are released as the government calls on companies and residents in rural towns and villages to apply for more than £70 million on offer immediately to take them out of the digital slow lane.
Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman is today urging people to take advantage of the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme which is open until March next year and aims to future proof people’s internet connections for a generation.
The scheme is being targeted at rural, hard-to-reach areas that aren’t likely to be connected through the commercial rollout of gigabit networks soon.
Minister Warman is also today launching a new taskforce, led by consumer and business groups including Which?, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and Confederation of British Industry (CBI) to drive consumer take-up of gigabit speed internet connections.
Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said:
‘’It’s fantastic to see so many people getting access to gigabit speed broadband. This is thanks to our investment alongside the sterling work of industry.
“Today I urge people in rural communities in the digital slow lane to apply for the immediate financial help available so they can seize the benefits of better connectivity – from making work easier to catching up with family and friends.
“I am also launching a new drive with business and consumer champions to make more people aware of just how beneficial better, faster broadband can be.”
Gigabit broadband carries speeds of a thousand megabits per second. These connections will not only underpin the use of smarter devices such as intelligent heating systems and internet-connected fridges, but they will allow people to download HD movies in seconds and stream TV and gaming content at 4K picture quality on multiple devices at the same time.
The speeds will pave the way for new and unexpected social benefits alongside jobs and economic growth, and revolutionise rural communities by giving people the freedom to live and work more flexibly.
To date, through the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme, more than 3,500 vouchers have been issued to rural homes and businesses in Somerset, nearly 2,000 in Cumbria, and more than a thousand going to Kent, Lancashire, Hampshire, West Yorkshire and Surrey.
The vouchers are worth up to £1,500 for rural homes and up to £3,500 for rural small to medium-sized businesses (SMEs) provided they come together as a collective of two or more properties.
Rocio Concha, Director of Advocacy at Which?, said:
“It’s really important that people across the UK, including those who are vulnerable or in hard to reach locations, have a quality broadband connection that meets their needs not just for entertainment and to stay in touch with loved ones, but also to be able to work, shop and bank.
“By bringing together industry, the regulator, government as well as groups representing both consumers and businesses, this new advisory group will be able to provide recommendations on the best way to ensure everyone can take advantage of faster, more reliable internet connections as they are rolled out.
FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry said:
“Small businesses require reliable, fast, and futureproof connectivity to operate with confidence. Gigabit-capable broadband will enable firms to connect with customers nationally and internationally with ease, develop new ways of using technology to improve their performance, and conduct more business online than ever before.
“This year has forced small firms to overhaul their business models, and digital connectivity has proved to be a lifeline during this time. However, many have struggled with poor internet connections, and would be better served with a step-change in connectivity.
“That’s why this task force could not have come at a more pressing time. FSB is delighted to work with the Government, along with consumer and business representatives, to accelerate the take-up of gigabit-capable broadband.”
Felicity Burch, CBI Director of Digital and Innovation, said:
“Going for gigabit on digital connectivity is more important than ever as the UK responds to the Covid crisis. It’s great to be part of the Government’s new advisory group ensuring that the business view is heard. Bringing in expertise from across the board will spur more households and businesses to take up faster, more reliable broadband and help put tech and innovation at the centre of our economic recovery.”