Targeting priority areas that have slow connections and would otherwise be forgotten in private broadband companies’ rollout plans, the infrastructure improvement project will initially see up to 510,000 homes and businesses in areas of Cambridgeshire, Cornwall, Cumbria, Dorset, Durham, Essex, Northumberland, South Tyneside, and Tees Valley benefit, with available internet speeds set to rise to over one gigabit per second.
The enhanced speeds will mean that those living in rural areas will have the freedom to live and work more flexibly, and families in such areas will no longer have to divide their internet use due to insufficient bandwidth.
Contracts for the areas that will benefit from the first phase of the project will be tendered in the spring of 2021, with infrastructure groundwork beginning in the first half of 2022.
In June, the government is expecting to announce the next set of contracts which will see 640,000 premises benefit across Norfolk, Shropshire, Suffolk, Worcestershire, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
The government has said that the country is on track to accomplish one of the fastest rollouts of gigabit broadband in Europe and aims to ensure half of all UK households are equipped with gigabit speeds by the end of 2021.
The project forms part of the government’s Build Back Better agenda, to help accelerate the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, level up the country, and turbocharge the technology sector and creative industries to create wealth and jobs.
The Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme will also be relaunched as part of the project, with £210 million set aside for those in eligible rural areas to financially help them access gigabit speeds. A further £110 million has also been made available to help connect hard to reach public sector premises to gigabit broadband, such as GP surgeries, libraries and schools in affected areas.
“Project Gigabit is the rocket boost that we need to get lightning-fast broadband to all areas of the country”, prime minister Boris Johnson said.
“This broadband revolution will fire up people’s businesses and homes, and the vital public services that we all rely on, so we can continue to level up and build back better from this pandemic.”
Digital secretary Oliver Dowden added: “Project Gigabit is our national mission to plug in and power up every corner of the UK and get us gigabit for the future.
“We have already made rapid progress, with almost 40 percent of homes and businesses now able to access next-generation gigabit speeds, compared to just nine percent in 2019. Now we are setting out our plans to invest £5 billion in remote and rural areas so that no one is left behind by the connectivity revolution.
“That means no more battling over the bandwidth, more freedom to live and work anywhere in the country, and tens of thousands of new jobs created as we deliver a game-changing infrastructure upgrade.”
More information on Project Gigabit can be found here.