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Project Gigabit

On 19th March 2021, the DCMS announced Project Gigabit. This includes the extension of the existing voucher scheme, but also introduces direct funding for those areas where commercial deployment is not deemed viable.

Reading the Deployment Plan suggests that there are now three broad tiers to the FTTP rollout.

1. Commercially funded. The week before Project Gigabit was launched, Ofcom announced increases the number of areas for which the FTTP rollout is now commercially viable and hence reduces the need for Government funding.

2. Dynamic Purchasing System funded. This appears to be the new idea in Project Gigabit and aimed at the areas that Openreach would have previously said could be "Demand Led". That is areas for which the FTTP rollout is still not deemed commercially viable but would have been readily funded by the previous voucher scheme. This should avoid the need to jump through all the hoops of the voucher scheme when the outcome was always obvious. In principle, this should be welcomed.

3. Part Voucher Funded. This is the continuation of the current voucher scheme but probably better targetted on only the properties where some aspect of self-funding is required.

In principle, this should be better than the current scheme as it should focus vouchers on small groups of properties where some degree of self-funding is required.

Hampshire is in Phase 1b of Project Gigbit where "We are commencing work on a number of other areas where additional procurements can be brought forward to help build pace for the programme while still supporting the learning phase." and "We will provide further information on these areas in a further update in June 2021." At least we are not in phase 2.

However, this does introduce a degree of uncertainty for us and the big question is: do we press ahead with voucher based schemes or do we, or have to, stand down and wait for Project Gigabit to deliver.

With our local MP - Steve Brine's help,we have receive the following statement, in writing, from Matt Warman (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Digital Infrastructure:

"... asked whether he should proceed with a UK Gigabit Voucher project or wait for subsidised network build through the procurement process. Communities in hard to reach areas that are eligible for vouchers (please use the eligibility checker at the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme website: https://gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk/) can work with a supplier to apply for the new UK Gigabit Voucher immediately, or the community can wait for Building Digital UK’s assessment of the potential areas for procurement following an Open Market Review and a Public Review."

 It thus appears that we have the choice of whether to proceed under the rural voucher scheme or to wait for Project Gigabit to deliver.

A copy of the Project Gigabit document is available below or from the DCMS. This article on ISP Review is also worth reading.

What does it Cost?

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