Brits will soon enjoy superfast broadband speeds according to HM Treasury as it announced the launch of a billion-pound drive towards rolling out fibre-optic broadband up and down the country. The project, named the Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund (DIIF), will be developed alongside the UK Government’s £400 million Digital Economy Fund. Both initiatives were announced today by Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury MP Andrew Jones, who unveiled the plans at the Allia Future Centre in Peterborough in Cambridgeshire yesterday.
Ministers are seeking to ‘revolutionise Britain’s digital infrastructure’, by creating seamless connectivity between homes and businesses. According to HM Treasury this will ensure that jobs remain flexible and overheads are reduced as work formats become increasingly digitised, while entertainment could also be streamed much faster.
Deputy-Chief Executive of the IPA and Head of Project Finance, Matthew Vickerstaff added: “Full fibre digital communication networks will be a crucial part of our future infrastructure and will require substantial investment from the private sector. The launch of the Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund will help accelerate the roll out of ultra-fast digital networks by increasing access to private finance for companies delivering them.”
The Government’s plans are as lofty as the investment, with Mr Jones promising: “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. Gone will be the days where parents working from home see their emails grind to a halt while a family member is gaming or streaming Game of Thrones in the next room. Full fibre will provide us with the better broadband we need to ensure we can work flexibly and productively, without connections failing.”
According to HM Treasury, the next steps involve growing and managing the fund, which will be administered by two leading infrastructure investment firms – Amber Fund Management Limited, part of Amber Infrastructure, and M&G Investments, part of Prudential PLC. The Treasury reports that by galvanising private sector businesses to invest in the fund it will become self-sufficient, covering the costs of the rollout.
Previously, investment in the fibre-optic sector has been limited by a lack of certainty about future demand. This in turn has held back alternative providers from entering the market and denied consumers choice when selecting providers.
Peterborough has pioneered a similar transformation to its infrastructure in recent years. The local authority’s investment in over 120km of fibre-cabling followed a successful demand campaign led by 25% of Peterborough’s local businesses. All six of the city’s business parks and over 6,000 firms are now connected to the network, alongside 300 further sites including schools and hospitals. This and a number of further initiatives including Peterborough’s drive to be the UK’s first ‘circular city’ – where partners can work off of one another to make urban systems more effective – won Peterborough the Smart City Award of 2015.
Giles Frost, CEO of Amber Infrastructure, said: “We are delighted to be partnering with HM Treasury and look forward to helping the community of businesses building the next generation of digital networks to scale up and accelerate the rollout of ultrafast connectivity across the UK. Amber will apply its experience in implementing core economic and social infrastructure projects alongside public sector partners to deliver this landmark initiative.”
John Mayhew, Head of Infrastructure Finance at M&G Investments, added: “We are pleased to be working with HM Treasury in order to play our part in delivering world class, high-speed broadband infrastructure in the UK. This approach ensures that Britain is ready for the future and brings benefits to families and businesses across the country who rely on fast and greater connectivity, as well as ordinary savers through the returns generated for their pension funds.”