Prime Minister Boris Johnson expects the project to be a rocket boost for enabling lightning-fast broadband to all areas of the UK

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In its first phase, Project Gigabit will benefit more than a million hard-to-reach homes and businesses. (Credit: Daniel Dino-Slofer from Pixabay)

The UK government has launched Project Gigabit, a £5bn infrastructure project, aimed at providing next-generation gigabit broadband for more than a million hard-to-reach homes and businesses in its first phase.

According to the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), the first beneficiaries of the project will be 510,000 homes and businesses across Cambridgeshire, Cornwall, Dorset, Cumbria, Essex, Durham, Northumberland, Tees Valley, and South Tyneside.

The project will enable their present internet speeds to increase to more than one gigabit per second.

The DCMS will float tender for contracts for the first areas in the spring with the infrastructure work to begin in the first half of next year.

The department said that the government-funded projects will focus on areas that presently have slow connections and which otherwise would have been ignored in the rollout plans of broadband providers.

In June, the British government is likely to announce the next procurements, under which up to 640,000 premises across Norfolk, Shropshire, Worcestershire, Suffolk, Hampshire, and the Isle of Wight will be connected to gigabit broadband.

Project Gigabit will expedite the country’s recovery from the pandemic, said the DCMS. Besides, it will propel high growth sectors such as technology and the creative industries, and level up the country, while spreading wealth and generating jobs.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Project Gigabit is the rocket boost that we need to get lightning-fast broadband to all areas of the country. This broadband revolution will fire up people’s businesses and homes, and the vital public services that we all rely on, so we can continue to level up and build back better from this pandemic.”

The DCMS claimed that Britain is rapidly rolling out gigabit broadband, from one in ten homes in 2019 to nearly two in five households today.

UK Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “Project Gigabit is our national mission to plug in and power up every corner of the UK and get us gigafit for the future.

“We have already made rapid progress, with almost 40 percent of homes and businesses now able to access next-generation gigabit speeds, compared to just 9 percent in 2019. Now we are setting out our plans to invest £5 billion in remote and rural areas so that no one is left behind by the connectivity revolution.”

The new infrastructure project is said to consolidate on the £2.6bn Superfast broadband programme, which is now financing mainly the gigabit-capable connections instead of superfast connections.

The UK government also announced the relaunch of the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme with up to £210m to be provided in eligible rural regions for enabling them to get gigabit speeds.

On top of that, the government will provide up to £110m for connecting public sector buildings in the most remote areas of the country with gigabit speeds.

The British government has also launched a call for evidence for studying the barriers to enhance broadband in remote and isolated areas in Scotland and Wales, and certain National Parks in England.