Homes and businesses in southern and eastern parts of England are set to benefit from new lightning-fast broadband connections backed by almost £320 million of UK government investment.
People living and working in rural parts of Norfolk, Suffolk and Hampshire are set to have their ability to bank online, conduct business, shop, communicate and stream entertainment transformed thanks to the latest contracts signed as part of Project Gigabit, the government’s £5 billion mission to roll out gigabit-capable, reliable broadband across the UK.
Improved connectivity unlocks new opportunities and fuels innovation, supporting the Prime Minister’s priority of growing the economy by creating better paid jobs.
CityFibre, the UK’s largest independent full-fibre provider, will deliver gigabit-capable infrastructure for around 218,000 homes and businesses having secured £318 million of Project Gigabit funding after a competitive process. The provider will also be making a private investment of £170 million to deliver the project.
Survey work commences immediately with the first installations in the New Year and the first live connections expected by summer 2024. Once connected, residents and businesses in Portsmouth, Beccles, the Broads and further afield, will enjoy access to lightning-fast broadband services over a network capable of supporting speeds of up to 10Gbps.
These latest Project Gigabit contracts come as gigabit coverage across the UK tops 76% – up from just 6% at the start of 2019 – with the rapid rollout of the best broadband delivering key infrastructure for the nation, helping to bolster and grow the economy.
Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure, Sir John Whittingdale, said:
Access to lightning-speed broadband is key to the government’s plans for driving economic growth and levelling up communities. This investment of £318 million in government funding is a significant milestone in achieving that mission.
Delivered through our flagship Project Gigabit programme, 218,000 homes and businesses across Norfolk, Suffolk, and Hampshire will benefit from a modern digital infrastructure, helping to power local communities and our plan to boost connectivity all over the UK.
CityFibre CEO Greg Mesch said:
Securing three further Project Gigabit contracts firmly establishes CityFibre as an integral delivery partner to the Government for rural connectivity. Our growing participation is central to our strategy, optimising our commercial rollout plan alongside the programme to provide our ISP customers with unrivalled network density in regions throughout the country.
Around 62,000 homes and businesses in Norfolk stand to benefit from £114 million of Project Gigabit investment, across locations including Buxton, Castle Acre and Horning. A further 8,000 premises in the north west of the county are being reviewed for inclusion subject to survey in the next six months.
In addition, CityFibre commits to providing internship opportunities for local people, with all interns to be offered long-term employment in the supply chain. This commitment to skills and training in Norfolk will be bolstered by the creation of 40 18-month apprenticeship opportunities as well as work experience placements for local students undertaking Construction and Digital T-levels.
Cllr Jane James, Norfolk County Council Cabinet Member for Corporate Services and Innovation, said:
We are thrilled that Norfolk will benefit from such a big investment in our digital infrastructure. As a rural county, with numerous small towns and villages, we can often feel left behind with slower internet speeds, but to increase speed and reliability in the network for over 60,000 homes and businesses is a great step in the right direction.
In neighbouring Suffolk, an injection of £100 million of government funding will make around 80,000 gigabit-capable broadband connections possible for people living in hamlets, villages and towns such as Icklingham, Mellis and Ringshall.
Local people will further benefit from CityFibre’s commitment to donate to charities operating in the county, working to connect people, tackle loneliness and reduce health inequalities through innovative digital solutions. The supplier will also provide a minimum of 30 free full-fibre gigabit-capable connections and six months of free internet access to community centres.
Cllr Matthew Hicks, Leader of Suffolk County Council, said:
As a rural county, we welcome the announcement of £100m for providing fast, reliable broadband to some 80,000 premises across Suffolk. This will build on our Better Broadband for Suffolk programme which has helped to deliver wider access to superfast broadband.
Not only will this investment in our digital infrastructure help to keep our residents connected, but, since many of Suffolk’s small businesses are operated from households across the county, it is essential for the future of the local economy.
East Hampshire, Rushmoor and Test Valley are just some of the places in Hampshire in line for brand new lightning-fast broadband connections resulting from a £104 million funding injection and CityFibre’s new contract covering 76,000 premises across the county.
The supplier has further committed to supporting existing work ongoing in the county to protect biodiversity and stimulate conservation. Rewilding efforts will be supported by grants to local charities, and more than 1,000 hours of volunteering opportunities with local environmental groups will be made available to CityFibre and supply chain employees.
Leader of Hampshire County Council, Councillor Rob Humby, said:
It is fantastic that residents, businesses and communities across rural Hampshire will benefit from this government investment to deliver reliable, high-speed full-fibre broadband to areas that are not commercially viable. I am very proud of our role in championing the benefits of gigabit broadband connections to rural communities and securing £104 million to connect 76,000 properties across the county from government’s £5 billion Project Gigabit initiative.
This latest investment sits alongside the £14 million contract awarded in March this year to upgrade properties in the New Forest and is a terrific example of our unique role as a large Local Authority in being a key influencer and enabler to bring organisations and businesses together and secure substantial investment in the interests of boosting Hampshire’s economic and social prosperity.