The Treasury has invested £400m in a Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund to support faster broadband connections and do away with “internet buffering and painfully-slow download times”.
(That’s the Treasury’s phrasing, BTW.)
Thanks to investments from industry partners, the fund could unlock more than £1bn for “full fibre broadband” – or as we’d put it, fibre broadband. It’s distinct from “fibre broadband” because the network is made exclusively of fibre-optics, rather than the unholy union of fibre and copper cables most of us pay for.
As the Treasury acknowledges, it has traditionally been difficult to get firms to finance “full fibre” because the industry is young and investors aren’t confident their gamble will pay off. Market penetration is just 2 per cent in the UK, compared to 80 per cent in Spain.
Given that the fund is relatively small, it’s unlikely to rapidly expand fibre’s presence. The government is, after all, aiming for just 7 per cent penetration by 2020. But the “UK’s leading builder of full fibre infrastructure” is certainly happy about it.
In a statement, Mark Collins, director of strategy and policy at CityFibre, which built Peterborough’s network, said he welcomed the launch of the fund: “[It] will help to underpin investor confidence and catalyse competitive full fibre roll-out. As the UK’s leading builder of full fibre infrastructure, we look forward to engaging with government to explore how the DIIF could accelerate our future plans.”
Snark aside, it is good news that the government is looking to encourage competition in the market, with the fund aimed at firms, such as CityFibre, that build fibre networks and provide access to ISPs like TalkTalk, whose customers can then opt for a premium service. As ISPreview notes, it doesn’t look like it will be available to Virgin Media or BT.
If, however, you don’t work in an area greenlit for full fibre, don’t hold your breath for a gigabit connection. Most of us will have to suffer “painfully-slow download times” for a little longer yet.