Mel PoluckEditorWednesday 13 September 2017

Broadband investment boost for local authorities

Further funding made available to local authorities to deploy speedy internet and increase 38 per cent UK take-up 

Government is to make up to £645 million available for local authorities to re-invest in superfast broadband for homes and businesses not already covered.

Superfast connections of 24 Mbps and above allow a typical family to watch TV on multiple devices at the same time, or stream films, carry out video conferencing and browse the web simultaneously.

A clause in the government’s contracts requires suppliers to 'recycle' funding when people adopt superfast connections as part of the programme. The region with the highest projected amount available for reinvestment by local authorities is the Midlands, with £113.4 million, according to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

The boost means that an estimated 900,000 extra UK homes and businesses could gain access to superfast speeds after the end of this year, and 98% of the UK over the next few years.

Research from Thinkbroadband shows that more than 93% of UK premises are now able to access superfast broadband. However, DCMS reports that take up rates of superfast broadband in areas covered by the government’s scheme have reached an average of just 38%. By region, the highest take up rate is in the South East, at 44%.

Oxfordshire example

One area looking to take further advantage of the funding is Oxfordshire County Council, which has recently included an additional 4,500 premises under its Better Broadband for Oxfordshire programme.

"Over 100,000 people in Oxfordshire are now using fibre broadband enabled by the Better Broadband programme, with take-up of services now at 49%,” said a spokeswoman for the Better Broadband for Oxfordshire Programme. “Superfast Broadband coverage in Oxfordshire is already at 94.97%. We will be examining the potential to unlock more funding, as outlined by the government and look forward to exploring all available options.” 

In July, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said it would introduce a Universal Service Obligation or agree a legally binding voluntary proposal by BT to make sure that everyone in the UK “has the connectivity they need for the digital age.”

Minister for Digital Matt Hancock said: “We are on track to reach 95% by the end of the year, but we know there’s still more to do. The money that is now being returned to the programme for reinvestment will help us reach that final 5%, and is all part of our commitment to make sure that 100% of the UK can get affordable, fast and reliable broadband by 2020.”

 

Image: by neiljaxx CC by 2.0 via Flickr