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Government's fibre broadband fund 'will not help those who need it most'

Tuesday, November 22nd 2016 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

The government’s plan to fund a rollout of ultrafast broadband has been described as “absurd” by Cable.co.uk’s consumer broadband expert.

Chancellor Philip Hammond will announce £400m of funding for a new Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund in tomorrow’s Autumn Statement.

The money will be used to speed up the rollout of fibre to the premises broadband and will be matched by private finance.

Mr Hammond will pledge that around two million homes will be able to access the new full-fibre network, which will offer download speeds up to 1,000Mbps.

He will also commit £740m to the development of 5G, the next generation of mobile network technology.

But Dan Howdle, director of communications at Cable.co.uk, said the cash would be better spent on bringing basic, reliable broadband to those struggling at the moment.

“There still remains millions of households in the UK for whom adequate broadband is a daily struggle,” he said.

“The DCMS and Openreach are already pushing hard to reduce this number substantially through it’s Broadband Delivery UK programme (BDUK) which aims to, and indeed is on target to achieve 95% of homes in the UK receiving at least 24Mbps by next year.

'Utterly absurd'

“While it is commendable that the Treasury considers broadband provision in the UK worthy of additional governement funding, it is utterly absurd that this funding should provide to a minority speeds for which there is no known or useful purpose while so many others struggle for anything approaching basic adequacy.

“The government should be spending this money where it matters most, along with putting in place firm restrictions as to exactly where this new network provision can be applied – prioritising those who need it most.”

CityFibre, a fibre infrastructure provider rolling out gigabit networks in a number of UK cities, backed the Treasury’s announcement.

CEO Greg Mesch said: “As a pure fibre infrastructure pioneer and the company behind the UK’s growing ranks of Gigabit Cities, CityFibre welcomes the Chancellor’s support to accelerate the deployment of fibre and 5G to homes and businesses.

“Britain’s industrial strategy needs a digital backbone, and it is essential that we move quickly to plug the UK’s ‘fibre gap’ and empower our service-based economy.

“This new funding, stimulating competitive fibre rollout at scale by new communications infrastructure builders, is a catalyst for the delivery of the UK’s fibre future.”

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