The first areas to get a £5 billion broadband boost have been revealed, with work on the major project to start next year.
As many as 510,000 homes and businesses plagued by sluggish broadband will be at the front of the queue, as part of the Government’s Project Gigabit scheme.
Areas include Cambridgeshire, Cornwall, Cumbria, Dorset, Durham, Essex, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Tees Valley.
Firms will be able to bid for contracts on the project from spring, with “spades in the ground” in the first half of 2022, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said.
Plans for six more locations – Norfolk, Shropshire, Suffolk, Worcestershire, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight – are set to follow in June, covering a further 640,000 premises.
It comes after the Government had to row back on its election pledge of providing the UK with full-fibre broadband by 2025, instead aiming for at least 85 per cent.
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.”
In addition, £210 million worth of vouchers will be available once again from April 8, allowing eligible residents to ask for up to £1,500 and businesses £3,500 towards the cost of installing gigabit-capable broadband.
One gigabit is the equivalent of 1,000 megabits, capable of downloading a high definition film in under a minute.
Some £110 million has been set aside to support GP surgeries, libraries and schools, while the Government also explores how satellite and 5G technology could be used to connect very hard to reach spots, starting with a call for evidence.
The development comes after regulator Ofcom announced that it will not impose price caps on full-fibre connections provided by firms, as part of new rules.
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.”
The full list of the first procurements:
- 110,000 to 130,000 premises in Durham, South Tyneside & Tees Valley and areas of Northumberland – including Darlington, Stockton, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, Sunderland, Gateshead and South Tyneside
- 60,000 to 80,000 premises in West Cumbria including in the Lake District National Park
- 30,000 to 50,000 premises in North and West Northumberland and East Cumbria – including Brampton and Rothbury
- 120,00 to 140,000 premises in Cambridgeshire and adjacent areas – including Peterborough and parts of Northamptonshire, Essex, Hertfordshire and Rutland
- 40,000 to 60,000 premises in East Cornwall – including Launceston, Callington and Looe
- 30,000 to 50,000 premises in West Cornwall – including in Cambourne-Pool-Redruth and Penzance and the Isles of Scilly