Procurement · 4 July 2017

Digital infrastructure investment fund to free up £1bn for full-fibre broadband

Better broadband would make it easier for people work remotely
Better broadband would make it easier for people work remotely

The government has said that its new £400m digital infrastructure investment fund will unlock more than £1bn of funding for super-fast, full-fibre broadband, improving connectivity for businesses across the UK.

The digital infrastructure investment fund is the government’s latest promise to home and business owners across the UK to combat slow download speeds and increase levels of connectivity to make it easier for people to work remotely.

The launch of the £400m fund follows previous government investment, worth around £1.7bn, to rollout super-fast broadband around Britain.

At the launch of the digital infrastructure investment fund, the government’s exchequer secretary to the Treasury, Andrew Jones, said: “We are investing £400 million to make sure the UK’s digital infrastructure is match-fit for the future.

“As technologies change and people’s habits move with them, it is crucial we play our part to ensure Britain stays at the front of the pack. Full fibre provides us with the better broadband we need to ensure we can work flexibly and productively, without connections failing.”

Commentators have called on the government to make small businesses the focus as the digital infrastructure investment fund gets rolled out. Michelle Ovens, director of the campaign Do it Digital, which encourages small company owners to expand their digital knowledge and capacity, said in a statement: “We hope that achieving full-fibre penetration will rapidly assist small businesses across the UK in reaching their full potential.

“We have spoken about the advantages for small businesses of becoming more digitally engaged, whether that’s for marketing, recruitment, stock management or banking and accounting.

“We shouldn’t underestimate the benefits that small businesses, which are after all the backbone of our economy, can derive by having access to the best possible fibre connections.”

The financing of full-fibre broadband infrastructure has typically been difficult in the UK because of the relatively young age of the companies providing it, combined with uncertainty surrounding levels of future demand in various parts of the country.

The government has said the digital infrastructure investment fund will be managed and invested on a commercial basis by private sector partners, to encourage greater private sector investment in the sector – increasing competition whilst creating a return for the government.

Earlier this year, Business Advice attended the launch of the Do it Digital campaign, at which the minister for digital and culture, Matthew Hancock, outlined the benefits of greater connectivity for small firms.

He said: “Digital know-how can help firms save money, increase profits and improve productivity, yet too many firms still do not use websites, trading platforms or social media channels.”

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Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.

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