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Investment in gigabit broadband in rural areas to deliver £615 million, according to new study

broadband report launch

Left to Right: Sherlly Murray MP, Rt Hon George Eustice MP, Helen Wylde, Victoria Prentis MP, Derek Thomas MP, Lord Richard Benyon

The findings of a new study which for the first time quantifies the impact of rolling out national gigabit capable broadband across hard-to-reach areas in Cornwall, have been published. 

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 of the digital divide on rural communities.

The study, Demonstrating the Value of Improved Connectivity, plots progress on the gigabit roll out, and quantifies the impact of improved coverage. According to Curia, digital connectivity would generate an economic impact amounting to £615 million GVA, delivering an additional £111 million year-on year-until 2030.

George Eustice Broadband
George Eustice, Secretary of State for the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

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 where 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.

Sheryll Murray Broadband
Sheryll Murray, MP for South East Cornwall

What broadband exists in the South West?

Broadband coverage in the South West has historically lagged behind national rollout schemes. With gigabit coverage currently at 46 per cent, it is commonly perceived that the nature of Cornwall’s geography will mean extending coverage will require investment.

In 2020, the Government committed £5 billion to Project Gigabit, which utilises public procurement alongside the gigabit voucher scheme to roll out broadband to hard-to-reach areas across the UK.

The Levelling Up White Paper reaffirms the Government’s target of nationwide coverage by 2030, yet the Government has committed to further forthcoming policy reforms to deliver connectivity to very-hard-to-reach areas.

Altnets, such as Wildanet, have been expanding in the South West to fill the gap of coverage in areas outside commercial builds.

Wildanet’s new CEO, Helen Wylde, has commented on the findings of the report: 

“The impact of the pandemic has brought into sharp focus the need to improve connectivity across the country, especially in areas outside the commercial build of large broadband providers. Altnets, such as Wildanet, have been stepping up to provide these more complex connections to level up rural communities.

“I have witnessed first-hand the positive impact reliable local connections can have on individual residents, businesses, and the local economy. I am delighted that this research provides a clear quantitative analysis of this impact, which I hope will reenergise efforts to increase connectivity, and provide new industries with the confidence to invest in the South West.”

Wildanet drinks reception 191 1
Wildanet CEO, Helen Wylde

Ben Howlett, the Chief Executive of Curia and former South West MP, said: “For the first time, this report provides an evidenced-based figure for the benefits that gigabit capable broadband can bring to Cornwall and to the national economy. Its findings conclude what we already knew to be true and reaffirms how imperative it is to connect all communities across the UK.”

Wildanet and Curia launched this report at their event in Parliament, which was attended by key local and national stakeholders.

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