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Broadband: Rural Areas

Question for Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

UIN 112973, tabled on 9 November 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what assessment he has made of the implications for his Department's policy on the Outside In programme of the findings of the National Audit Office's report of January 2015 on the Superfast (Rural) Broadband Programme: update.

Answered on

17 November 2020

In 2013 and 2015 the NAO published reports on the progress of the Superfast (Rural) Broadband Programme. Since we last reported, the Superfast Programme has moved increasingly to gigabit-capable full-fibre solutions in place of copper telephone wires from premises to a local cabinet.

The Superfast Programme has delivered over 5.2m premises with superfast broadband, which constitutes 17% of all households in the UK and reached the target of 95% coverage in December 2017. After hitting this target Ministers agreed to continue the programme using a combination of underspend, early clawback, Local Body/Devolved funding and EU funding (ERDF and EAFRD). With coverage now beyond 96%.

The NAO have recognised what has been achieved through the Superfast Programme in their latest report from 16th October 2020 called ‘Improving Broadband’ and has made several recommendations to the Department to be utilised as part of its development of the UK Gigabit Programme.

We are developing our approach to delivering the £5 billion UK Gigabit programme as fast as possible and my officials will ensure that all recommendations that have been made by the NAO will be taken into account during this work. This is a very complex programme and we want to make sure our interventions cater for current need, geography and cost-effectiveness and incorporates lessons learned from previous programmes.

We understand the challenges in achieving nationwide coverage, particularly in hard to reach areas. And have been working closely with industry and local authority partners to develop an approach that will scale with the market’s ambitions.

In the meantime we are already connecting some of the hardest to reach places in the country, not only through our Superfast Broadband but additionally with Local Full Fibre Networks and Rural Gigabit Connectivity programmes.

Further details about the £5 billion of public funding committed at the Budget will be announced at the Spending Review on the 25th November.