To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what assessment she has made of the Project Gigabit broadband rural rollout; and what steps she is taking to ensure that rural communities in (a) England and (b) Staffordshire benefit from the programme.
We are making excellent progress with Project Gigabit. By the end of March 2022, we had delivered gigabit-capable broadband to 741,000 premises, ahead of our target of 720,000 premises. Combined with commercial gigabit delivery, we are on track to hit our target of 85 per cent UK gigabit coverage by 2025.
We have now launched procurements with a value of over £700 million to deliver gigabit connections to hard-to-reach homes and businesses across the UK, and we recently signed our first contracts in North Dorset, Teesdale and North Northumberland.
In Staffordshire, almost 500 premises have benefitted from our gigabit broadband voucher scheme, which provides a subsidy for eligible homes and businesses towards the cost of installing gigabit-capable broadband. More than 320 additional premises are awaiting completion, for a combined total of over £1.9 million of support. Staffordshire County Council has also committed £1 million in top-up funding to support the delivery of vouchers across the county, providing an additional £2,000 for eligible premises experiencing speeds below 30Mbps.
Building Digital UK’s recent market engagement did not identify sufficient supplier interest in the planned regional procurement for Staffordshire at this time. This procurement has been deferred and BDUK is now working on an additional procurement approach to deliver gigabit connectivity to hard-to-reach parts of Staffordshire.