The £400 million Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund to boost full-fibre broadband deployment is now formally launched

The £400 million Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund to boost full-fibre broadband deployment is now formally launched

In November 2016, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced the creation of a new Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund (DIIF) of £400 million, matched by private finance to invest in new full fibre networks over the next 4 years. After being announced again in the March 2017 Budget alongside other measures to boost investment in digital infrastructure, the Fund was formally launched yesterday.

HM Treasury appointed two private infrastructure investment firms to manage the Fund. Targeting alternative network providers, Government is encouraging them to get in touch directly with the Fund Managers:  Amber Fund Management Limited, part of the Amber Infrastructure Group, and M&G Investments, part of Prudential PLC. M&G Investments includes Infracapital, currently a shareholder of independent network provider Gigaclear which raised in May £111 million new investment (£60 million from Infracapital) to build full fibre networks in rural Britain.

The Fund was launched by Secretary to the Treasury Andrew Jones in Peterborough, a city which has seen another independent network provider, CityFibre deploy 120km of full fibre to business premises following demand aggregation.

With £400 million of investment, Government is hoping to “unlock £1 billion of capital in the sector???. The Fund was announced in November 2016 in addition to a £23 billion National Productivity Investment Fund (with £740 million allocated to digital infrastructure to be spent by 2020-21) and a 100% business rates relief for new full-fibre infrastructure for a 5-year period from 1 April 2017. The Local Government Finance Bill published in January 2017 designed to introduce this tax relief (representing a saving of £60 million) fell following dissolution of the Parliament after the General Elections were called. However, the Telecommunications Infrastructure (Relief from Non-Domestic Rates) Bill was debated for the first time the House of Commons today.

Yesterday also marked a change in Government; DCMS (Department for Culture, Media and Sports) was rebranded as the department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (keeping the acronym DCMS). Explaining this change of name, Secretary of State Karen Bradley said: “DCMS celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, and it is fitting now to include Digital in the name. The department has taken on significant new responsibilities in recent years, so that half of its policy and delivery work now covers the digital sectors – telecommunications, data protection, internet safety, cyber skills and parts of media and the creative industries.???