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by Sam Trendall and Jenni Davidson
14 March 2018
Highlands among thirteen UK areas awarded share of £95m for full fibre broadband rollouts

Highlands among thirteen UK areas awarded share of £95m for full fibre broadband rollouts

Fibre network cable - Image credit: Carsten Rehder/DPA/PA Images

The Highlands are among 13 cities and regions the UK Government has picked to receive a share of £94.5m funding for projects to promote the rollout of full-fibre broadband.

Highland Council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) have secured £4.7m funding from the UK Government’s Local Full Fibre Network (LFFN) programme in a joint bid to provide full-fibre networks in Inverness, Fort William, Wick and Thurso. 

There are five public sector partners involved: Highland Council, HIE, NHS Highland, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI), with the aim being to provide a gigabit-capable full-fibre network to public sector sites in the region.

Local businesses will also have the chance to benefit from the fund, as a proportion of the money will be used to offer around 150 vouchers, worth £3,000, aimed at encouraging them to adopt high-speed connectivity. 

Highland Council leader Margaret Davidson said: “I am very pleased that we have been successful with our partners in securing this welcome funding for full-fibre networks.

“It will go a considerable way to helping us meet the challenges of improving digital connectivity in one of the largest government regions in Europe and in helping to meet our aspirations to become a region of digital opportunity.” 

She added: “A gigabit voucher scheme will be launched and targeted at small and medium enterprises working in key development areas that complement the public sector with a view to stimulating business connectivity and encouraging providers to invest in the region.

“This is a really exciting opportunity for Highland and I encourage SMEs to watch this space.”

Across the UK, some of the projects funded by the LFFN scheme will involve the “strategic repurposing of existing infrastructure” to enable the deployment of full-fibre networks “at a fraction of what it would otherwise cost”, the UK Government said.

Other schemes will see NHS organisations become “anchor tenants” of fibre hubs, to which nearby homes and businesses will be able to connect.

Some projects will prioritise the upgrade of “schools, libraries, and emergency-response buildings” to full-fibre connections.

The UK Government claims that just three per cent of buildings in the UK benefit from “gigabit-capable full-fibre infrastructure” and it established the Local Full Fibre Network initiative last year with the aim of increasing this.

The scheme has a funding pot of £190m to invest in local projects that enable or promote the rollout of fibre-to-the-premises technology.

“With the need for faster connectivity expected to dramatically increase over the coming years, the LFFN programme aims to leverage local and commercial investment in full fibre across the whole of the UK landscape,” the UK Government said.

“It will do this through funding a series of projects that seek to stimulate the market by making the deployment of gigabit-capable full-fibre infrastructure more commercially viable.”

Applications for the second tranche of LFFN funding will open this summer.

The winning bidders and their requested amounts are:

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon – £2.4m

Belfast – £11.5m

Blackpool – £3m

Cambridgeshire – £4m

Cardiff – £6m

Coventry, Solihull and Warwick – £5.7m

Highlands – £4.5m

London – £8.5m

Manchester – £23.8m

Mid Sussex – £2.2m

North Yorkshire – £15.1m

Portsmouth – £3.9m

Wolverhampton – £4.9m

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