Cornwall, Essex, and Tyneside among areas to get £5bn gigabit broadband boost

Saleha Riaz
·3 min read
BT's Openreach . Photo: Openreach
The CEO of BT's Openreach said: "This is a massive opportunity to level-up the country and boost the bounce-back after the pandemic." Photo: Openreach

Up to 510,000 homes and businesses in rural parts of the UK will get next generation gigabit broadband in the first phase of the government's £5bn ($7bn) Project Gigabit.

Areas that have slow connections and which would otherwise have been left behind in broadband companies’ rollout plans will be prioritised.

Prime minister Boris Johnson said the project "is the rocket boost that we need to get lightning-fast broadband to all areas of the country. 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.”

Those living and working in Cambridgeshire, Cornwall, Cumbria, Dorset, Durham, Essex, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Tees Valley will be the first to benefit, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced on Friday.

Available speeds in these areas will be more than 1,000 megabits, or one gigabit per second.

“It means families no longer having to battle over bandwidth and will give people in rural areas the freedom to live and work more flexibly,” the department said in a statement.

In June, the government expects to announce the next procurements to connect up to 640,000 premises in Norfolk, Shropshire, Suffolk, Worcestershire, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

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“Project Gigabit will accelerate our recovery from COVID-19, fire up high growth sectors like tech and the creative industries and level up the country, spreading wealth and creating jobs the breadth of Britain,” the government said.

Clive Selley, CEO of BT (BT-A.L) subsidiary Openreach added that "this is a massive opportunity to level-up the country and boost the bounce-back after the pandemic, so it’s important the process moves quickly and that all operators do their bit.”

The government said it has outlined a strategy to make local, regional and cross-regional contracts available for broadband network providers of all different sizes to bid for. The first procurements to be announced are:

  • 110,000 to 130,000 premises in Durham, South Tyneside & Tees Valley and areas of Northumberland - including Darlington, Stockton, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, Sunderland, Gateshead and South Tyneside

  • 60,000 to 80,000 premises in West Cumbria including in the Lake District National Park

  • 30,000 to 50,000 premises in North and West Northumberland and East Cumbria - including Brampton and Rothbury

  • 120,00 to 140,000 premises in Cambridgeshire and adjacent areas - including Peterborough and parts of Northamptonshire, Essex, Hertfordshire and Rutland

  • 40,000 to 60,000 premises in East Cornwall - including Launceston, Callington and Looe

  • 30,000 to 50,000 premises in West Cornwall - including in Cambourne, Pool, Redruth and Penzance and the Isles of Scilly

The Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme is also being relaunched, with up to £210m to give people in eligible rural areas immediate financial help to get gigabit speeds.

Broadband usage in the UK more than doubled in 2020 as millions of people worked, socialised and studied from home, Openreach had said earlier.

During the year, the daily record for broadband use was broken 15 times as home working and video conferencing increased due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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