Extra money for Broadband Delivery UK programme should push country closer to 95% target for 24Mbps
Around 600,000 extra homes and businesses in broadband ‘not spots’ are in line for superfast services, the culture secretary has announced.
Some £440 million will be used to connect properties in the hardest to reach parts of the UK under the Broadband Delivery UK programme (BDUK), Karen Bradley said.
The cash is made up of £150 million in savings from "careful contract management", and £292 million released through a clawback system that re-invests money when fewer people than expected take up superfast connections.
The new investment is expected to help the BDUK project deliver superfast broadband – speeds of at least 24Mbps – to more than the target of 95% of the UK by December next year. It is also designed to answer criticism that many rural areas were being left in the digital slow lane, while speeds accelerate in well-connected urban areas.
Previous £1 billion
In last month’s Autumn Statement, the chancellor announced more than £1 billion to improve the UK’s digital communications infrastructure. But that money is largely to support the extension of full fibre connections and 5G mobile networks, rather than to tackle not spots.
Making the latest announcement, Bradley (pictured) said: "Our Broadband Delivery UK programme is giving families and businesses in hard to reach areas the fast and reliable internet connections which are increasingly at the heart of modern life.
"Strong take-up and robust value for money measures mean £440 million will be available for reinvestment where it matters – putting more connections in the ground.
"This will benefit around 600,000 extra premises and is a further sign of our commitment to build a country that works for everyone.
“Broadband speeds aren't boosted automatically - it needs people to sign up. Increasing take-up is a win-win-win: consumers get a better service, it encourages providers to invest, and when more people sign up in BDUK areas, money is clawed back to pay for more connections.”
A spokesperson for BT, which is providing the infrastructure for superfast broadband, said: “We're delighted that the success and efficiency of our delivery will mean hundreds of thousands more homes and business could get faster broadband than originally expected.
"BT has been investing billions of pounds into the UK's digital infrastructure over the last decade and, whilst more than nine out ten premises can order a fibre service today, our Openreach engineers are still working hard to bring superfast speeds to the country's remaining not spots.”
Earlier this year, a Government analysis showed that premises in England set to miss out on superfast speeds were overwhelmingly in constituencies held by Conservative MPs. Seats in Herefordshire, Devon, Somerset and Shropshire were on course to have the most homes and offices lacking modern superfast speeds.
It was revealed after the Government axed a proposal to deliver superfast broadband to the “final 5%” of the country because of the cost.
Instead, former Prime Minister David Cameron announced he would introduce a universal service obligation (USO) - the right to demand only 10Mbps wherever you live, by 2020, while contributing to the cost.
Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0