Conservatives pledge £5bn investment in gigabit broadband

Conservatives pledge £5bn investment in gigabit broadband

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Chancellor of the exchequer Sajid Javid has promised to spend £5 billion on the rollout of gigabit-capable broadband and other connectivity tools, with a particular focus on bringing the technology to rural areas.

Speaking at the Conservative party conference in Manchester, Mr Javid said the investment will ensure the UK is a better place to live and work and will create new opportunities for businesses to grow.

"Investment in our infrastructure will be key to making the next decade one of renewal - boosting our economy and making life easier for people all across the country," he stated.

The £5 billion figure is said to be all new money, which means it will be on top of existing investments such as the £650 million that has been set aside for gigabit connectivity until 2021.

In a piece for the i newspaper to coincide with the chancellor's announcement, culture secretary Nicky Morgan stated investment in broadband will be a top priority for the government, following ambitions set out by prime minister Boris Johnson earlier this year to bring gigabit-capable connectivity to every home and business by 2025.

She said current plans set out in last year's Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review that aim to bring gigabit-capable networks to around only 80 per cent of UK premises are "not good enough", so it is vital the gap to the final 20 per cent is closed to ensure rural and remote areas are not being left behind as the UK moves to a digital economy.

The new funding was welcomed by industry groups, though some warned there remain challenges ahead.

For instance, a spokesperson for the Internet Service Providers Association stated that calculations for the £5 billion investment are still based on a target of 2033 for nationwide full fibre coverage and have not yet taken into account the accelerated 2025 ambition.

This makes it even more urgent for the government to press ahead with regulatory reforms that will make the deployment of new technologies easier, the organisation said.

Meanwhile, president of the Country Land and Business Association Tim Breitmeyer said: "We welcome that the government is listening to the concerns of rural communities. Ending the rural/urban digital divide will support rural businesses to create jobs, enable people to access services, allow agriculture to embrace the technological revolution and persuade more tourists to visit." 

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