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Project Gigabit:

The Government is investing £5 billion in Project Gigabit to ensure that hard-to-reach communities are not left out. Building Digital UK (BDUK) is carrying out a Public Review to help identify areas in Devon and Somerset that may be suitable for future public funding for gigabit-capable broadband.

Public Review Phase:

BDUK is seeking information and supporting evidence from suppliers – in relation to the presence of gigabit-capable broadband infrastructure within the project area.

They wish to hear from all relevant stakeholders – including the public, businesses, internet service providers and broadband infrastructure operators – particularly in relation to the proposed mapped eligible areas.

This Public Review opened on 4th October and closes at 5pm on 4th November 2022.

CDS and Project Gigabit

CDS intends to make a formal submission to the Public Review. However, CDS has already expressed a view, based on local experience, that Government expectations about the amount of gigabit-capable broadband to be delivered commercially in rural areas may be optimistic.

CDS has indicated to BDUK its strong wish to see Project Gigabit adopting an “outside-in” approach to its roll-out to ensure very-hard-to-reach areas are not left behind and for the earliest possible start. CDS believes further subsidised gigabit-capable network build must play a critical role in levelling up rural and coastal areas struggling with poor economic growth and deprivation, not simply upgrade premises already in receipt of superfast speeds.

In May 2021, in response to DCMS’ Project Gigabit pre-launch consultation, CDS welcomed confirmation of further Government investment in digital connectivity in Devon and Somerset and said: “In terms of when would we like the procurements to start – assuming there is no overlap intended with our live contracts delivering gigabit capable solutions, we would say quickly to support our economy and communities.”

CDS believes that locally focused voucher schemes can provide vital in-filling and empower hard-to-reach communities, especially targeted approaches for those who are not only sub-Superfast but sub-10Mbs, including options to increase the value of Gigabit Vouchers, through Local Top Up Schemes. CDS is keen to work with BDUK on developing more of these solutions as it is already doing in the Bath and North East Somerset, North Somerset, Mendip and Sedgemoor areas.

Given the delivery pressures affecting all providers in the industry generally, CDS also believes it is of key importance that Project Gigabit does not over-stretch the capacity and resources of infrastructure providers and their supply chains. Therefore, it will be important for BDUK to take account of market conditions and capabilities.

The consultation closes on November 4, 2022. BDUK currently anticipates launching contract(s) procurement in April, 2023, with contract award January to March 2024.

For more information on Project Gigabit in the CDS region and the operation of vouchers during this period go HERE.

To respond to this Public Review, and for more information, please see BDUK’s page HERE.