Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport written question – answered on 5th March 2021.

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Photo of Darren Henry Darren Henry Conservative, Broxtowe

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps his Department are taking to ensure areas designated OFCOM area 2 can access Government schemes to improve their broadband speeds.

Photo of Matt Warman Matt Warman The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The government’s ambition is to deliver nationwide gigabit-capable broadband as soon as possible. We are working with industry to target a minimum of 85% gigabit-capable coverage by 2025 but will seek to accelerate rollout further to get as close to 100% as possible. We expect that approximately 80% of UK premises will be delivered by industry commercially without the need for public subsidy. It will be more difficult to deliver gigabit connectivity to the hardest to reach 20% of the premises, which is why the government has announced £5 billion to deliver gigabit-capable connectivity to these premises as fast as possible.

For their proposed regulation for the 2021-26 period, Ofcom have defined two geographic markets: Area 2, accounting for roughly 70% of premises, where there is already some material commercial deployment by rival networks to BT Openreach or where this could be economic based on information provided to Ofcom by operators; and Area 3 - where Ofcom believes there is unlikely to be material commercial deployment by rivals to BT Openreach.

Ofcom has not yet officially confirmed the premises in these market areas as they are still under review following a consultation that closed on 8 December 2020. Ofcom expects to publish their final decisions by 31 March 2021.

DCMS’ £5 billion UK Gigabit programme will prioritise areas that are in the hardest to reach 20% premises in the country and, within that, the c.3% of premises that do not have access to superfast broadband. For this reason, our programme is unlikely to initially prioritise areas that are designated in Ofcom’s Area 2 as this will avoid the risk of crowding out commercial investment, and provide value for public money whilst delivering to those areas most in need.

However, DCMS will continue to conduct market surveys as part of the UK Gigabit programme, through which telecom operators provide detailed information on their commercial build plans. If it becomes clear that premises in Ofcom’s Area 2 are unlikely to benefit from a commercially delivered gigabit programme within a reasonable timeframe, then DCMS will take this into account when considering eligibility for government schemes.

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