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Chancellor provides £200 million for full fibre broadband


Mark Say Managing Editor

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The Government has made £200 million available to boost full fibre broadband in rural locations, including £5.9 million for connections to buildings in Suffolk.

Chancellor Philip Hammond (pictured) announced the move as part of the 2018 Budget, along with a confirmation of the plan for a geospatial Digital National Asset Register.

The broadband investment has come as part of an expansion of the National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) to £27 billion with an extra year to run until 2023-24.

The Budget document highlights its support for the nationwide roll out of full fibre broadband, and says that Suffolk will receive funding as part of the third wave of the Local Full Fibre Networks challenge fund. This will be directed at providing connections to key public buildings.

During the summer the local county council declared that its Better Broadband for Suffolk programme, supported by £64 million of state aid, was on course to achieve 98% coverage pf 24Mbps by the end of 2020.

New approaches

Hammond has also allocated £200 million from NPIF to pilot new approaches to deploying full fibre in rural locations, beginning with primary schools, with a voucher scheme for nearby homes and businesses. The first wave will cover the Borderlands, Welsh Valleys and Cornwall.

The investment in the asset register has been promised as part of the Government Strategy and is aimed at enabling better management and commercialisation of its £420 billion of property assets.

The news was first announced in July, with an indication the register will bring together public sector property and land data with socio-economic data and should be in place by the end of the current Parliament.

One of the more controversial elements of the Budget is the plan to impose a digital services tax of 2% on the revenues of large digital businesses.

This has prompted criticisms from IT industry association techUK, whose chief executive officer Julian David said: “techUK remains opposed to any tax that seeks to narrowly target businesses simply because they are digital. The kind of tax being proposed will be bad for investment and bad for the UK economy. 

“We welcome the Chancellor’s recognition of the benefits of an international approach but the OECD and the EU Expert Group on tax have said that a national digital services tax is the wrong idea. This is an international tax issue that needs an internationally agreed solution.”

Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

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