Unleashing the Power of Connectivity

Britain has made remarkable progress since Boris Johnson promised to invest £5 billion through the Project Gigabit programme. This ambitious scheme aimed to provide all, especially those in hard-to-reach rural areas with access to fast and reliable broadband. Since that promise was made – and credit where credit is due – over 80% of the UK now can now access gigabit-capable broadband from at least one provider.

In today’s digital age, economic prosperity is pinned on everyone having decent internet connection. Yet too many of our communities—especially those in rural areas—remain in the shadows of the digital divide. This gap not only delineates disparities but also hampers the potential for economic revival and competitiveness on a global scale.

This is why a cross-party group of MPs and Peers – members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Broadband and Digital Communication developed a manifesto for the next UK Government. 

The manifesto presents a vision for a universally connected UK, where every individual, irrespective of their geographical location, is an integral part of the digital economy.

The manifesto articulates a clear and actionable strategy for achieving universal broadband access, with a notable emphasis on practicality. Whilst we don’t want to see the proliferation of poles in the countryside, they are however necessary to connecting rural communities. 

For too long, rural communities have been left behind, with inadequate access to broadband throttling their economic and social participation. Take rural Cornwall for instance – in towns and villages that had slow connections – you can see economic rejuvenation once the rollout has been completed. New jobs have been created and quality of life has improved.  Broadband can transform local businesses by opening up new markets, support the agricultural sector through technology-driven solutions, and make remote work a viable and attractive option, thus stemming the brain-drain to urban areas. 

But to make more progress, and to connect the final 5 per cent, the Government needs to embrace hybrid solutions for connectivity which includes Fixed Wireless Access and satellite connections. Importantly, the APPG manifesto makes the case for technology neutrality. 

It isn’t often that a large-scale nation-building scheme work. More work needs to be done to connect the most rural 5 per cent of premises but with cross-party support for Project Gigabit, I think it will be done. 

Read the full manifesto All-Party Parliamentary Group for Broadband and Digital Communication manifesto here.

Kieran Bergholcs, leads JBP’s Westminster public affairs team and has 9 years’ experience in politics and policymaking. He currently advises clients on the rollout of digital infrastructure in rural areas, the rural economy and financial services reform, by regularly engaging with parliamentarians and decision-makers across both the House of Commons and Lords. He spent three years in the House of Commons working for Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park and Mark Garnier MP. Prior to that, Kieran was an Advisor to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull covering immigration policy, agriculture and disaster recovery.  

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