Boris Johnson is promising a “rocket boost” for parts of the country with slow broadband – in the latest pledge in his “levelling up” agenda.
He is promising an internet revolution with funding for more than a million hard-to-reach homes and businesses to have the next generation “gigabit” broadband installed.
It is the first phase of a £5bn government infrastructure project and will benefit areas in the north of England where the Tories won “Red Wall” seats from Labour in the general election.
“Project Gigabit is the rocket boost that we need to get lightning-fast broadband to all areas of the country,” the prime minister boasted.
“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.”
Ministers claim up to 510,000 homes and businesses in Cambridgeshire, Cornwall, Cumbria, Dorset, Durham, Essex, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Tees Valley will be the first to benefit as part of Project Gigabit.
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.
Ministers claim Project Gigabit will accelerate recovery from COVID, 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.
“Project Gigabit is our national mission to plug in and power up every corner of the UK and get us gigafit for the future,” said Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden.
“We have already made rapid progress, with almost 40% of homes and businesses now able to access next-generation gigabit speeds, compared with just 9% in 2019.
“Now we are setting out our plans to invest £5bn 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.”
A 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.
The government is also making up to £110m available to connect public sector buildings – such as GP surgeries, libraries and schools – in the hardest to reach parts of the UK with this revolutionary infrastructure.
The aim is that broadband speeds will rise to more than 1,000 megabits or one gigabit per second. Areas that currently have slow connections and which would otherwise have been left behind in broadband companies’ rollout plans will be prioritised.
Gigabit broadband is being rolled out rapidly – from one in 10 households in 2019 to almost two in five today. And the government claims the UK is on track for one of the fastest rollouts in Europe and for half of all households to have access to gigabit speeds by the end of this year.