The UK government is undertaking a three-year pilot designed to accelerate the rollout of broadband and mobile in rural areas. The Fibre in Water scheme is also attempting to reduce leakage from the public water supply – about 20 per cent of the water in the system.
The government is putting up to £4 million (€4.71 million) for innovators to test potentially faster, cheaper ways to deploy fibre to hard to reach areas. The government says civil works, in particular new ducts or poles, can make up as much as 80 per cent of the cost of building out gigabit-capable broadband.
The government says the scheme could “turbocharge” its £5 billion Project Gigabit plan, which has been watered down to £1.25 billion available during this Parliament, up the next General Election. It also referenced its £1 billion support for the Shared Rural Network.
Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said: “The cost of digging up roads and land is the biggest obstacle telecoms companies face when connecting hard-to-reach areas to better broadband, but beneath our feet there is a vast network of pipes reaching virtually every building in the country.”
The government is already considering giving broadband firms access to more than a million kilometres of underground utility ducts to boost the rollout of next-generation broadband – including electricity, gas and sewer networks – and will soon respond to a consultation on changing regulations to make infrastructure sharing easier.