Budget pledges £200m to rural full fibre rollout

Budget pledges £200m to rural full fibre rollout

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Chancellor Philip Hammond's latest Budget has promised an additional £200 million of funding to support the rollout of full fibre connectivity in rural parts of the UK.

The money, which will come from the National Productivity Infrastructure Fund, is intended to help stimulate investment in this area and encourage private companies to develop innovative solutions to help extend the reach of the UK's fibre network.

Mr Hammond's speech on Monday (October 29th), while not mentioning broadband specifically, highlighted the importance of improved networking capabilities to the digital economy, stating: "We are investing in our nation’s infrastructure and backing the technologies of the future." 

The government's eventual aim is to completely replace the UK's ageing copper wire network with more modern, high-speed fibre by 2033. At present, even though much of the country is covered with fibre to the cabinet level, the 'final mile' often remains dependent on copper, which limits the speed and bandwidth available to many homes and businesses.

Its latest move also indicates a desire to ensure that more remote parts of the UK are not left behind in this transition, with the Scottish Borders, the Welsh Valleys and Cornwall set to be among the first locations to benefit from the new investment.

However, this week's announcement will still only cover a tiny proportion of the funding that will be required to meet this full fibre target, which according to the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review will be as much as £30 billion. 

Industry groups have given a cautious welcome to the move, with Paul Stobart, chief executive of internet provider Zen, noting that rural connectivity remains the last piece of the puzzle of the UK's network infrastructure.

However, the Financial Times reported him as saying: "The government can't stop here if it wants to fulfil its pledge of making access to high-speed broadband a legal right for everyone by 2020."

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