HomeInsightsGovernment publishes a key information document on its Rural Gigabit Connectivity Programme

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The Government explains that the Rural Gigabit Connectivity (RGC) programme aims to assist Building Digital UK (BDUK), which is part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and partner organisations, in delivering more gigabit-capable connections in locations that are unlikely to benefit from commercial investment by 2033, an ambition set out in the Government’s 2018 Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (FTIR).

The FTIR identified that approximately 10% of UK premises would be unlikely to receive commercial access to gigabit-capable broadband by 2033, and that these premises would be located primarily in rural and remote areas.

An “Outside In” intervention was proposed in the FTIR, to ensure that these final 10% premises can be addressed in parallel with the rest of the UK. However, the Government says that it has now increased the intervention scope from the hardest to reach final 10% of the UK to 20%.

The Government says that it is “committed to delivering nationwide gigabit-capable coverage as soon as possible”. The Chancellor recently announced a £5 billion commitment to fund gigabit-capable deployment in the hardest to reach 20% of the UK through this “Outside-In” approach. There are circa 30 million premises in the UK and therefore the 20% is expected to represent up to six million households. However, not all of these households could end up needing to receive a subsidised gigabit-capable connection, the Government says.

The key information document outlines why the RGC programme has been introduced, its aims and objectives, what it is, and how it will operate.

In short:

  • the RGC programme launched in May 2019 and will run until the end of March 2021. £200 million has been allocated to the programme, from the National Productivity Investment Fund;
  • the RGC programme is testing a “Hub” model approach, which involves identifying eligible public sector buildings that meet qualifying criteria set by BDUK to receive gigabit-capable connectivity. In the Government’s view, this has two benefits: (i) providing a gigabit-capable connection to a public building enhances a public service; and (ii) the surrounding area may also, incidentally, become increasingly viable for commercial intervention, stimulating the market to build more networks in these areas; and
  • as well as the Hub model, a rural voucher is offered as part of the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme to encourage greater take-up of gigabit-capable connectivity to residents and businesses in rural areas.

The Government says that BDUK has identified a number of eligible rural public sector buildings as Hubs. In addition, the Department for Education is engaging with over 100 primary schools with the aim of ultimately enabling connectivity to 300 rural schools with gigabit-capable technology by March 2021. To access the key information document, click here.