Local Full Fibre Programme enters trial phase
The Government yesterday announced that they were entering the trial phase of their Full Fibre Networks Programme which forms part of the £740m investment in digital infrastructure originally announced as part of the National Productivity Investment Fund.
The Programme, which currently has £200m allocated to it, aims to accelerate market delivery of new full fibre networks and will run till 2021 with four complimentary approaches. The pilots are aimed at testing each of the approaches:
- Aggregating public sector demand – ie anchor tenancy – to lower the risk of deploying full fibre networks (trial with West Sussex)
- Incentivising new fibre with upgrades to public sector buildings (work ongoing with the Department for Education)
- Reusing public sector assets such as ducts (trial with Tameside Metropolitan Council)
- A new Gigabit voucher scheme which businesses can access (testing with Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, Bristol and Bath & North East Somerset, Coventry and Warwickshire, Leeds/West Yorkshire, and West Sussex)
Unsurprisingly it is the latter trial which has drawn the most attention and the Government has also released a study into the earlier Connection Voucher Scheme. We believe that the Gigabit Voucher Scheme (GbVS) will function in a similar manner with local authorities acting as a gateway to local businesses.
The original voucher scheme was undoubtedly an economic success but the key for these trials will be how to incentivise new infrastructure build rather than upgrades. In particular, there is the possibility of using the money available as a further incentive to reduce barriers to infrastructure build as we outlined in our recent report. The Government has yet to confirm the precise details of the pilots but overall must be praised for getting the project to this stage in such a short period of time.
The BSG looks forward to continuing to engage with Government and stakeholders throughout this project.