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£95m broadband fund for local authorities to boost full-fibre rollout

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Local authorities are being encouraged to submit bids for part of a £95m fund to improve local broadband.

Minister for Digital Margot James said the fund would aid the rollout of full-fibre broadband across the UK.

Last year, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced more than £1bn of funding to stimulate further and faster roll-out of full-fibre networks and drive the next generation of mobile connectivity.

As part of this, government’s £190m Local Full Fibre Networks (LFFN) Challenge Fund was launched to boost commercial investment in networks across the whole of the UK.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said successful projects in this latest and third round of funding would help provide gigabit-capable connections to public buildings and businesses, while encouraging broadband providers to create additional connections to homes.

The government is aiming to get 10Mbps broadband speeds into every home in Britain by 2020 as part of its Universal Service Obligation.

However, in June, peers warned that this minimum speed was not enough and that it should be raised to avoid risking economic damage. 

“We recently set out our ambition for a nationwide full-fibre broadband network by 2033 and initiatives like this will be instrumental in achieving that,” James said.

“We want to hear from any local authority interested in taking part, so we can work closely with them on their plans to help them secure funding.”

Funding decisions, the department said, would be made by the LFFN Investment Panel - which would analyse all proposals placing importance on criteria including any rural focus or projects targeting improvements to public sector services such as in health or education.

Local bodies are being asked to submit informal expressions of interest with no fixed date for formal applications, it added.

This summer saw the launch of Openreach’s hybrid fibre network, dubbed G.fast, which is capable of delivering a maximum of 330Mbps. The technology has so far been rolled out to 59 areas around the UK  including Aberdeen, Cardiff, Bury, Southampton and Taunton. The roll out should cover 10 million homes by 2020. 

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