Constituency matters… a weekly column by the Member of Parliament for Folkestone and Hythe, Damian Collins 4 August 2021
This week the government confirmed that residents in the Folkestone and Hythe constituency, as well as in many other parts of Kent, will benefit from further investment from the Project Gigabit fund.
Over the next few years the government has committed £5billion to levelling up internet access across the UK, and in Kent over 120,000 rural homes and businesses will get access to the fastest broadband speeds as a result of this investment.
Currently more than 96% of properties in the UK have access to superfast broadband, and by the end of this year 60% of all households to will have access to gigabit speeds – that is 1000 mbps, enough to download a feature length movie in seconds. The Government is also on track to hit its target of gigabit-coverage of at least 85 per cent of households by 2025. This is one of the fastest rollouts of full fibre broadband in Europe, which is great news for the properties that benefit, but small comfort if you live in a not spot area that hasn’t yet received a decent superfast broadband service.
Over the last decade, the rollout of superfast broadband has come from connecting fibre optic cables to the green roadside exchange cabinets that serve local properties. From there the final connection is made through the existing copper telephone wires. For residents in towns and cities, they are now more likely to have a full fibre connection into their home – this provides for the fastest upload and download speeds.
However, in many rural properties, that are situated some distance from their local exchange cabinet, broadband speeds have remained low. In order to accelerate the delivery of superfast broadband in properties like these, the government introduced the universal service obligation so that customers with download speeds of less that 10 mbps have the right to ask their supplier to upgrade their service.
The government has also launched a voucher scheme to support communities in hard to reach areas to get access to gigabit connectivity. The small grants have proven to be of great value to homes and businesses without access to gigabit and created a long list of suppliers with a consistent inflow of new projects. Project Gigabit is funding up to £210million for vouchers from April 2021 to April 2024, worth up to £1,500 for residents and up to £3,500 for businesses in rural areas.
Project Gigabit funding
The further roll out of Project Gigabit funding announced this week will also target the hardest to reach properties that would otherwise have to wait longer for a commercial provider to offer full fibre broadband. I believe it is right that public investment in the broadband network should help first those that have had the slowest service to date.
I was also pleased to hear this week from the mobile phone operator Three, that they have upgraded their coverage on the Romney Marsh coast, so that residents at Littlestone will now have access to the fastest 5G signals. Another welcome investment to help bring more residents up to speed with the latest digital infrastructure.