Government broadband initiatives

Since 2010, the Government has delivered a series of initiatives that has seen superfast[1] broadband availability rise from 50% to 96% of UK premises.  Due to increased coverage and take-up, average broadband speeds for UK consumers have increased from 5.2Mbit/s in 2010 to 54.2Mbit/s in 2018.  And, over the last 18 months, this has been further supported by an increase in gigabit-capable[2] coverage: since 2018, coverage of full fibre networks has increased by 1.1 million homes, and currently stands at 2.5 million (8% of UK premises).

Initiatives to improve connectivity have included:

  • Superfast Broadband Programme, investing over £1.7 billion of public money to deliver superfast broadband in hard-to-reach areas;
  • Local Full Fibre Networks Programme, which includes a £190 million Challenge Fund (a capital grant programme funding locally-led public connectivity projects), the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme to improve affordability, and the Better Broadband Voucher Scheme for homes and businesses unable to achieve even a 2Mbit/s connection;
  • Super Connected Cities Programme, investing £150 million to increase digital capability in 22 UK cities through broadband connection vouchers for SMEs, free Wi-Fi and digital innovation projects;
  • Changes to legislation to enable more infrastructure (telegraph poles, overhead lines and street cabinets) without planning permission;
  • Providing an exemption for new fibre from business rates for 5 years from April 2017-2022; and
  • Securing £400 million for a new Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund to boost commercial finance for emerging fibre broadband providers looking to scale up.

In 2018, we published the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review, which found that the most effective way to deliver nationwide gigabit-capable connectivity at pace is to promote competition and commercial investment where possible, and to intervene where necessary.  We expect 80% of UK premises to be in areas that can support competition between two gigabit-capable networks.  To close the digital divide and ensure rural areas are not left behind:

  • The Chancellor announced at Conservative party conference a further £5 billion of public funding to support the roll-out of gigabit broadband in the remaining hardest to reach 20% of the country.
  • The Rural Gigabit Connectivity programme, launched in May 2019, is the first step of this “Outside-In” approach. £200 million from the National Productivity Investment Fund has been allocated to trial a model to deliver gigabit-capable connectivity to premises in rural and remote areas, combining demand-side and supply-side interventions.

We continue to address barriers to network deployment and support the telecoms industry in achieving our ambition to deliver nationwide coverage of gigabit-capable broadband as soon as possible.

 

 

[1] Superfast broadband is defined by Government as a connection providing speeds of 24Mbit/s, and by Ofcom as speeds of 30Mbit/s.

[2] Gigabit broadband is over 30 times faster than superfast, and provides 1000Mbit/s speeds.