UK Budget boost for rural broadband

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The UK Government is to give rural areas a £200 million funding package as part of its full-fibre broadband pledge.

The money – announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond as part of his Budget measures – has been allocated from the National Productivity Infrastructure Fund and is intended as a stimulus for companies to invest in full-fibre networks. “We are investing in our nation’s infrastructure and backing the technologies of the future,” he said.

Tim Breitmeyer, President of the CLA, the body that represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses across England and Wales said: “The Chancellor has prioritised connecting the countryside like never before. Digital connectivity is vital to boosting rural economic growth and this funding will go towards projects which should lead to the deployment of full fibre broadband in the hardest to reach areas.”

“However, although this is very welcome cash for rural broadband, the Government has still missed an opportunity to incorporate 4G mobile connectivity into its plans to improve rural economic growth. Mobile network operators have abandoned the countryside by failing to resolve poor signal and not-spots. Introducing a single rural mobile phone network to deliver better and faster 4G coverage would prove the Government is serious about its ambition to connect the countryside.”

The Independent Networks Cooperative Association (INCA) – a co-operative trade association for next generation broadband services – welcomed the additional funding and pledge to use it to connect some of the most remote parts of the country to super-fast fibre broadband.

INCA CEO Malcolm Corbett said the extra funding comes at what is a critical time for the UK’s digital infrastructure and it will ensure alternative network providers (altnets) can continue to make an impact by encouraging the deployment of new networks.

“While the UK is already making significant progress in connecting the UK’s unconnected, with altnets taking on a significant role, this funding provides a boost to underserved communities and gives reassurance that these areas will not be left behind,” said Corbett. “I have every confidence that the UK’s altnet community will see this as a good opportunity and will work quickly and effectively to ensure the money pledged by the Government is put to good use.”

“We are pleased to see such a commitment from the government to provide full fibre connectivity at previously underserved locations – there is no reason why most of the UK cannot be served by full fibre and our members are fully supportive of making this happen.”

Kevin O’Donnell, Head of EMEA Regional & Channel Marketing at Viavi, said: “Our research has shown that the UK is ranked #22 in the world for Gigabit internet – so it lags behind much of the developed world. The Chancellor’s additional investment is much needed, especially for public-owned entities such as schools and libraries etc. to help children unlock a world of opportunities that ultra-fast connectivity provides.”

“Service Providers and their contractors will play a pivotal role to get the fibre deployed right the first time. And of course to maintain robust connectivity, troubleshooting will be an area of focus.  One of the most common sources of faults is contaminated fibre connectors. It can even damage equipment. Follow the simple mantra – inspect before you connect – and inspecting both sides of the fibre connection is the only way to ensure that it will be free of contamination and defects. Faults cost money and unnecessary delays – time that the UK can ill-afford in the race to Gigabit connectivity.”

Steve Miller-Jones, VP of Product Strategy, Limelight Networks, said that while it was “great news” to see the Chancellor promising to invest £200 million to pilot innovative approaches to deploying full fibre Internet, it was important that digital businesses don’t jeopardise this opportunity by undermining the network expansion with poor digital experiences.

“Wider access to a high-speed broadband infrastructure will support the expansion of new digital services and businesses will be able to make use of cutting-edge IoT technologies and edge computing to deliver these services through the cloud in real-time. However, it is imperative that the industry doesn’t become complacent in its attitude towards connectivity. Faster speeds don’t necessarily mean better services unless we build the right network infrastructure in the first place. In the physical world, building bigger, faster roads can mean bigger traffic jams. It’s the same in the digital world, we always need to accompany network expansion with a laser focus on remedying latency issues that spoil digital experience and hurts our digital economy.”

“For content distributors to stay competitive, they must prioritise their ability to instantly create a broadcast-quality experience for all users. Overcoming Internet traffic obstacles for uninterrupted viewing is one way of tackling this challenge. Utilising a densely-architected, global content delivery network that offers scalability, reliability, and can adapt to new business models, new markets, and increasingly mobile audiences will guarantee any content delivery strategy is a success.”


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