The Government has announced that Cornwall is one step closer to achieving lightning-fast broadband. As part of Project Gigabit, broadband companies have been invited to bid for £36 million worth of contracts to boost broadband in rural areas of Cornwall.
Dubbed the biggest Government-funded broadband rollout in the UK, the flagship £5 billion Project Gigabit is focused on connecting rural communities that are unlikely to be connected through commercial rollout.
Starting in October this year, the Government has said that the new infrastructure is set to “bring fast connections to 19,000 homes and businesses in many of the hard-to-reach areas of Cornwall.” So far, these areas include the Lizard Peninsula and Land’s End.
The benefits of a broadband boost
Thanks to a £164 million Government scheme to upgrade public services, the South West has already benefited from a broadband boost. In Plymouth, more than 5,000 buildings including doctor’s surgeries, schools and libraries have connected to high-speed broadband. According to the Government, the improvements will “drive up productivity in public services, create better experiences for people who use them and encourage broadband companies to easily extend the network to thousands of surrounding homes and businesses.”
This means that high-speed broadband has the potential to help doctors and police officers save time downloading large files such as x-rays and CCTV footage; teachers can make better use of digital innovation in lessons and care home residents can access resources that could benefit their health and wellbeing.
Commenting on the project, Nadine Dorries, Digital Secretary said: “Fast and reliable broadband is vital to households, businesses and the public services we rely on every day. That’s why, on top of our transformative £5 billion Project Gigabit investment to improve rural connectivity, we have upgraded thousands of schools, libraries and hospitals across the UK to first-class broadband fit for the future.”
In addition, Project Gigabit reveals that over 100,000 vouchers worth more than £185 million have been issued to provide hard-to-reach areas with the same broadband quality as urban areas. The Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme (GBVS) offers rural homes and businesses up to £1,500 or £3,500 towards the cost of a gigabit-capable broadband connection.
The economic impact
Project Gigibit aligns with the Government’s national mission to grow the economy and create new jobs. This month, Wildanet, a South West based Alternative Network Provider (Altnet), commissioned the policy institute, Curia, in partnership with NGD Advisory Services, to conduct independent research to better understand the impact that the boost could have on rural communities.
According to the study, “Demonstrating the Value of Improved Connectivity”, Curia predicts that digital connectivity would generate an economic impact amounting to £615 million GVA, delivering an additional £111 million year-on year-until 2030.
Alongside the economic impacts, the report states that gigabit broadband could also produce £101 million of equivalent carbon taxation between 2020-2030. Equivalent carbon taxation refers to the amount an individual or business may have paid in carbon tax but has been avoided as a result of gigabit broadband. The report cites the example of flexible working and reduced commuting, delivering a significant positive impact on sustainability and the environment, as well as on finances.
The report states that investment in gigabit infrastructure could also have a positive impact on household finances and social wellbeing, citing the figure of £16.5 million per year for citizens in Cornwall as a result of digital inclusion, and savings of over £222.25 per household per year. This comes at a time when the cost of living crisis is leaving many household budgets increasingly squeezed. This figure is consistent with other research from the Good Things Foundation which suggests that for every £1 spent on digital inclusion, the average return is £15.
So far, Project Gigabit has seen 95 per cent of Cornish premises benefit from high-quality broadband, and by connecting to hard-to-reach communities, the £36 million broadband boost has the potential to provide people in rural areas the autonomy to live and work flexibly, businesses to grow and public services to thrive.