Insights Update on UK Department of Science, Innovation and Technology’s “Consultation on improving broadband for very hard to reach”


Although very few homes in the UK are unable to access a decent broadband service, many of them do not have access to superfast broadband. The government’s target is to deliver gigabit-capable broadband (with download speeds of 1000 megabits per second (Mbps) or 1 Gbps) to 85% of the UK by 2025 and to get as close to 100% coverage as soon as possible after that (according of Ofcom, coverage in January 2023 was 72%). This can be particularly challenging in the hardest to reach areas of the UK, which are isolated geographically, have low population density or have limited existing telecoms infrastructure. Although the numbers of very hard to reach (“VHTR”) premises are low, it is likely to be too costly to provide them with a gigabit-capable connection under current commercial or government-funded initiatives and therefore government intervention may be needed to deliver the best-available connection.

Following its Call for Evidence in 2021, and the government’s response in 2022, the government has now issued a consultation setting out its policy positions, more analysis of the evidence provided under the Call for Evidence and providing an opportunity for respondents to provide further evidence on barriers or progress in this area.

The consultation invites feedback on the government’s policy position on why VHTR premises may justify a different approach to gigabit-capable broadband rollout than applies to other premises, and when VHTR connectivity should be delivered. It seeks to explore various policy options (and the criteria by which each should be evaluated) such as changes to existing, or the creation of new, broadband improvement delivery programmes, such as government subsidies, and market-driven regulatory policies with no, or limited, fiscal implications or government intervention (e.g. the sharing of information on the locations of VHTR premises to support commercial rollout to them). Currently, the government subsidises the roll out of gigabit-capable broadband to VHTR properties via the Project Gigabit public procurement programme. The consultation also explores what service parameters should apply to VHTR property rollout including speed of service, reliability and resilience, latency, contention ratio, service data caps and price and affordability. Finally, it seeks feedback on known barriers to delivery (e.g. distance, topography, wayleaves).

For the consultation document, click here. To respond to the consultation, which closes on 27 November 2023, email