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£200m gigabit internet project launched in six UK counties

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Full-fibre networks offering gigabit internet connections are to be trialled in six areas around the UK under a new £200m government programme.

The first stage focuses on businesses, schools and hospitals with each individual project getting around £10m to test innovative ways of connecting offices and public sector buildings to the internet.

The fibre networks will run straight to the doors of customers’ homes or businesses and will offer a super-reliable, fast connection with speeds of up to one gigabit (1,000 Mbps). This is an order of magnitude faster than most UK connections; the country’s average is currently just 16.5Mbps, according to a report from Cable.co.uk last month.

The multi million-pound investment means test projects will now go ahead in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, West Sussex, Coventry and Warwickshire, Bristol and Bath & North East Somerset, West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester.

The announcement is the first step in a £200m programme originally unveiled by Chancellor Philip Hammond during the Spring Budget.

It forms part of the government’s four-year plan to stimulate the market and encourage the growth of full fibre up and down the country.

William Newton, president at WiredScore, believes the programme is crucial to modernising the UK’s aging infrastructure.

“This is a much-needed step to ensure that the UK’s digital infrastructure can continue to meet the needs of modern businesses,” he said. “Establishing a fast and effective roll-out of full-fibre broadband will be essential if the UK is to remain a global digital leader".

Andrew Jones MP said: “How we live and work today is directly affected by how good our broadband connection is. Reliable connections enable new industries to flourish, help create jobs and give people flexibility in how and where they work.

“For our economy to thrive, it is vital we make smart investments to ensure our digital infrastructure is world class and fit for the future.”

Minister of State for Digital, Matt Hancock MP, said: “We want to see more commercial investment in the gold standard connectivity that full fibre provides and these innovative pilots will help create the right environment for this to happen.

“To keep Britain as the digital world leader that it is, we need to have the right infrastructure in place to allow us to keep up with the rapid advances in technology now and in the future.”

The government said the new networks will partly be used to allow hospitals to share HD-quality graphics of medical scans in seconds to improve diagnosis speeds, while school classrooms will see a significant increase to the number of pupils who can stream educational videos simultaneously.

The project’s remaining £190m is due to be spent by 2020-21.

BT put forward an offer in July to voluntarily fulfil the government’s Universal Service Obligation for broadband, which will see internet speeds of 10Mbps come to every household in the country. 

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