Almost 500,000 premises across the UK have been connected to gigabit-capable broadband since summer 2018. This is part of a £1 billion (€1.11bn) government funding commitment until the end of 2021, with a further £5 billion for the hardest-to-reach areas to be earmarked soon.
It means that, alongside commercial investment, more than 7.5 million premises can now access gigabit capable broadband, compared to around 1.4 million premises two years ago.
Nearly 45,000 vouchers, worth more than £90 million, have been issued to subsidise the cost of building faster, gigabit-capable broadband infrastructure to homes and businesses.
The figures are released as the government calls on companies and residents in rural towns and villages to apply for more than £70 million on offer immediately to take them out of the digital slow lane.
Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman is urging people to take advantage of the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme which is open until March 2020 and aims to future-proof people’s Internet connections for a generation.
The scheme is being targeted at rural, hard-to-reach areas that aren’t likely to be connected through the commercial rollout of gigabit networks soon.
Warman is also launching a new taskforce, led by consumer and business groups including Which?, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and Confederation of British Industry (CBI) to drive consumer take-up of gigabit speed Internet connections.
“It’s fantastic to see so many people getting access to gigabit speed broadband,” declared Warman. “This is thanks to our investment alongside the sterling work of industry. Today I urge people in rural communities in the digital slow lane to apply for the immediate financial help available so they can seize the benefits of better connectivity – from making work easier to catching up with family and friends. I am also launching a new drive with business and consumer champions to make more people aware of just how beneficial better, faster broadband can be.”
To date, through the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme, more than 3,500 vouchers have been issued to rural homes and businesses in Somerset, nearly 2,000 in Cumbria, and more than a thousand going to Kent, Lancashire, Hampshire, West Yorkshire and Surrey.
The vouchers are worth up to £1,500 for rural homes and up to £3,500 for rural small to medium-sized businesses (SMEs) provided they come together as a collective of two or more properties.
Currently gigabit broadband is available to about 26 per cent of residential and business premises across the UK, but estimates show only 30 per cent of premises are taking up these services where they are available. The new Gigabit Take-Up Advisory Group (GigaTAG) has been set up to lead a strategic review into boosting take-up as gigabit connections among consumers and businesses become more widely available.