As much as £645m will be handed back to local councils to extend superfast broadband coverage to 98 percent of the UK
As much as £645 million will be reinvested into government-funded broadband programmes after new figures showed 38 percent of all premises covered so far had taken up superfast broadband services.
The most significant such project was Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), which allowed local authorities to bid for up to £530 million in central government funding. Councils had to match any money received, while suppliers, most notably BT, invested additional funds into the rollout.
The government says 4.5 million homes and businesses have benefited to date, and that 95 percent of the UK will have access by 2017.
However supplier contracts dictate that if adoption exceeds the number stated in the original business case, then funding must be returned to local councils who can then reinvest it in broadband.
To date, BT has set aside £465 million to return to councils – up from £292 million in December 2016 – while operational effieciences have saved an additional £180 million. When combined, these create the £645 million figure touted by government. Around £200 million of this is already committed.
Digital Minsiter Matt Hancock says another 900,000 homes and businesses will benefit from superfast broadband coverage, bringing the total figure to 98 percent within the next few years.
“We have now brought superfast broadband to almost 94 per cent of UK homes and businesses, and we are reaching thousands more every week,” he said. “We are on track to reach 95 per cent by the end of the year, but we know there’s still more to do.
“The money that is now being returned to the programme for reinvestment will help us reach that final 5 per cent, and is all part of our commitment to make sure that 100 per cent of the UK can get affordable, fast and reliable broadband by 2020.”
At present, the Openreach superfast broadband network reaches more than 26.5 million properties and BT is also offering to build 10Mbps for anyone in the UK who demands it rather than be subjected to the proposed universal service obligation (USO).
Under BT’s proposals, Openreach will extend coverage using a mixture of fibre to the cabinet (FTTC), fibre to the premise (FTTP) and fixed wireless access (FWA) technologies so 99 percent of the UK has access to 10Mbps by 2020. It is however likely most will enjoy significantly higher speeds.
BDUK has proved controversial however, with some calling it effectively state aid for BT, while others have criticised the use of FTTC as the dominant technology.
However Openreach is now turning its attention to ‘ultrafast’ broadband, which would be achieved through a combination of G.Fast, which speeds up copper connections, and FTTP.
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