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UK’s Project Gigabit leaves 90% of worst-connected regions in the dark, says National Broadband report

Written by Wed 19 Jul 2023

Only 1 in 10 local authorities with the worst broadband connectivity in the UK has received funding from the Government’s Project Gigabit.

Analysis by National Broadband revealed that funding is largely being spent on easier and cheaper to reach areas. The UK Government has less than 18 months to reach its target of providing 85% properties with gigabit-capable broadband.

“There is a growing disparity between digital haves and have-nots in the UK and, as Project Gigabit fails to address more remote and difficult-to-provision areas, this digital divide will only get worse,” said David Hennell, Director at National Broadband.

At present, Project Gigabit has not allocated all of its £5 billion ($6.5 billion) budget. Yet, 50% of residential properties have yet to benefit from Project Gigabit funding. These properties do not have access to the national minimum standard for broadband. With fixed line broadband speeds below 10Mbit/s, these homes are not able to perform simple online tasks like streaming or video calling.

“Far too many rural communities are still endlessly waiting on the distant promise of full fibre broadband, yet the Government is failing to fund alternatives which exist today and would dramatically improve people’s connectivity at the fraction of the cost of fibre,” added Hennell.

Regional disparities

The South West was found to be hit particularly hard by the lack of funding. The region has the greatest number of premises in England unable to access landline broadband at speeds higher than the national minimum standard. Despite this, only £42.3 million in funding has been provided to the area. Meanwhile, both the South East and East of England have received over £250 million each.

Regions like East Midlands, London, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and Yorkshire have also received £0 in funding, according to National Broadband.

“This is counter-intuitive to say the least, because full fibre connectivity is being funded for properties that already benefit from perfectly good broadband performance,” said Hennell.

While acknowledging the positives of rolling out full fibre broadband, National Broadband highlighted issues within the Project Gigabit’s approach and its sole focus on full fibre.

David Hennell said: “We find it almost impossible to understand why other solutions are not also being funded for those who have the very worst current connectivity – simply put, why are those most in need being left out?”

National Broadband recommended alternative technology like 4G broadband to to rapidly and cost-effectively bring much-improved connectivity to those who are the most digitally disadvantaged.

The organisation calculated that these alternatives could supply all 435,000 properties currently without access to usable broadband with a much faster connection. This is reported to come at a cost of less than 3% the Project Gigabit’s total budget.

Current progress of Project Gigabit

According to Ofcom, the Government is set to reach its target of providing 85% properties with gigabit-capable broadband by 2025. The Government has stressed that progress is being made with Project Gigabit.

ThinkBroadband reported that 76% of UK premises are now able to access a gigabit-capable connection as of June 2023. Over 50% of UK premises are also covered by a full-fibre network, which is up from just 22% in April 2021.

National Broadband has launched a petition calling on the Government to fund alternative broadband solutions for poorly connected areas currently being neglected.

Back in 2020, doubts were casted over whether the Government could meet its ambitious target.

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Written by Wed 19 Jul 2023

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