Since 2014, Bedford Borough Council has invested over a £1m in digital infrastructure after it was requested by Central Government to aid the rollout of superfast broadband by suppliers in order to increase coverage across the country. The Government’s policy was to provide funding to support the roll-out of broadband to those areas of the UK where commercial roll-out was not economically viable.
The Council has been working in partnership with BDUK (Building Digital UK, part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) alongside Central Bedfordshire, Luton Borough and Milton Keynes Councils, to administer the Central Superfast Programme. By working together, coverage stands at 98.2% across the borough with superfast speeds.
We are coming to the end of the Superfast Programme as the Government turns its focus to enabling full fibre.
Through the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review, the Government made a commitment to provide full fibre and gigabit capable broadband to every home and business across the UK.
‘Project Gigabit’ is a £5 billion government infrastructure project that brings together everything the government is doing to enable and deliver fast and reliable digital connectivity for the entire country.
Whilst local authorities will still provide knowledge, data and assurance, Central Government will be managing and paying for all the full fibre contracts centrally (via BDUK). We are working with them to bring the project to the Borough.
It is expected that 80% of the national full fibre deployment will be completed commercially by OpenReach and other providers. The remaining ‘harder to reach’ 20% will be addressed, in parallel, via this central BDUK programme – commercial deployment is already getting going nationally and the first deployment for BDUK is likely to happen in 2022.
Initial plans from BDUK suggest much of Bedford Borough will be picked up commercially.
Bedford – Fibre City
Openreach announced in September 2020 that Bedford had been added to its “Fibre Cities” roll out programme. This means full fibre infrastructure will be rolled out commercially by Openreach. By adding Bedford to its Fibre Cities roll out programme, Openreach is bringing full fibre to the Borough earlier than to other towns and cities.
Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme
There is up to £210 million to give people in eligible rural areas immediate financial help to get gigabit-capable speeds. The scheme is accessible through broadband service providers that have registered to provide connections through the scheme.
Vouchers worth up to £1,500 for homes and £3,500 for businesses help to cover the costs of installing gigabit broadband to people’s doorsteps.
A number of communities in both urban and rural locations have successfully improved broadband access in their local area through a community-led model.
See the Government guidance to help community groups to access and benefit from potential models, case studies and funding options relevant to local broadband projects.
Contact Justine Ives, Team Leader Economic Projects and Place. Email: Justine.firstname.lastname@example.org