Last summer, Government identified that approximately 10 per cent of UK premises, largely in rural and remote areas, would be unlikely to receive gigabit-capable connections commercially by 2033.
An “Outside In” approach is being taken to make sure rural areas are not disadvantaged in the race for full fibre broadband. This new approach will help ensure that the identified 10 per cent of premises are reached at the same time as the commercial roll out happens across the UK.
The Rural Gigabit Connectivity (RGC) programme, launched today, is the first step of this approach.
DCMS Secretary of State Jeremy Wright said: “Our decision to tackle some of the hardest to reach places first is a significant shift in Government policy and will be instrumental in delivering our plans for a nationwide full fibre broadband network by 2033. Our rollout of superfast broadband transformed the UK’s digital landscape, and our modern Industrial Strategy is focused on investing in the infrastructure that will make Britain fit for the future.”
RGC is a two year, £200 million UK-wide programme focused on rural areas. Government has initially prioritised sites in Cornwall, Cumbria, Northumberland and Pembrokeshire. Additional sites in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and the rest of England will be announced in the coming months.
The RGC Programme will trial a model connecting local hubs* in rural areas, starting with primary schools. Working with the Department for Education, DCMS has identified the first 31 schools eligible for a connection under the scheme (see Notes to Editors). These new speeds will enable whole classes to simultaneously surf the internet on tablets as part of structured lessons, and gives schools easier access to online training and educational learning. Access to cloud services not only means savings as staff go paperless, but will also allow the decommissioning of the school’s local servers to reduce hardware, maintenance and IT support costs.
Other public buildings will then be added throughout the course of the programme, for example health sites and community halls.
The RGC programme also has a rural gigabit broadband voucher component, offering up to £3,500 for small businesses and up to £1,500 for residents. This will be offered to encourage greater take-up of gigabit-capable connectivity to residents and businesses in rural areas.
There will also be opportunities to explore other ways of rolling out gigabit capable connectivity in rural and hard-to-reach areas using the Outside in approach.
The funding for the scheme comes from the Government’s National Infrastructure Productivity Fund (NPIF). The NPIF is designed to bolster UK productivity, which is crucial to raising living standards. Through the NPIF, the government is investing in the vital infrastructure needed to make it easier for people to connect with others, and work remotely and flexibly.
The Exchequer Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “We want everyone across the country to have access to fibre broadband connections no matter where they live. We’ve set a target of having 15 million premises able to connect to full fibre by 2025 with a nationwide network by 2033 and committed to ensuring the most rural areas aren’t left behind.
“This investment enables communities that have not previously benefited from broadband to leapfrog to the most advanced fibre technology – boosting productivity and enhancing quality of life.”
The RGC programme will complement other BDUK Programmes, such as Superfast Broadband and Local Full Fibre Networks, but will not overlap with areas where a gigabit-capable solution is already available or will be delivered through these existing interventions.
The first Cumbria schools identified as eligible for a Gigabit capable connection are:
- Eaglesfield Paddle CE Primary School
- Holme St Cuthbert Primary School
- Rosley C of E School