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Government broadband funding: where to invest it?

Rob Turner Rob Turner

During this year’s budget, Rishi Sunak confirmed that the government will pump £5 billion into rolling out full-fibre broadband across the UK as part of its commitment to ‘level up’ the UK, Rob Turner explains. The aim of this investment is to make sure that "gigabit-capable broadband" is able to reach every UK home by the end of 2025, with particular focus on those “hardest-to-reach places”.

Data published by Ofcom reveals that 95% of premises in the UK have "superfast" broadband (minimum download speed of 30 Mbit/s) and 53% of premises have ultrafast" broadband (download speeds of greater than 300 Mbit/s)1.

However, at local authority level, this percentage can vary quite considerably and some areas are lagging significantly behind others.

The proportion of premises with superfast/ultrafast broadband ranges from 53.9% in the lowest-performing authority, up to 99.8% in the best-performing authority. To make sure that funding is targeted in the most-efficient way and with the greatest impact, it is important to consider wider socio-economic conditions alongside existing broadband connectivity.

Despite improvements in broadband connectivity, there continues to be an urban/rural divide2. To assess this at a local authority level across the UK we have used population density as a proxy for rurality, as there is no consistent rural/urban definition for the UK.

Proportion of premises with superfast/ultrafast broadband versus population density across the UK

superfastultrafast-broadband-versus-population-density.png

Sources: Census3, Ofcom1 and ONS4

The chart above shows that there is a strong positive correlation between these two factors with areas in the bottom-left quadrant of the chart having a lower proportion of premises with superfast/ultrafast broadband and a lower population density, suggesting higher rurality.

There are, however, clear outliers, such as the cluster of areas in the top-left corner, which have low superfast/ultrafast availability and yet a high population density, which includes City of London, Westminster and Tower Hamlets. Other outliers include Lancaster City, which conversely has high levels of superfast/ultrafast broadband and yet a low population density, suggesting higher rurality.

In addition, we have highlighted areas that have productivity levels (GVA per job) in the bottom 25% nationally. This helps us to identify areas that are not only hard to reach, but suffer from low economic productivity.

The information below reveals the local authorities that suffer from low productivity, low broadband connectivity and are more rural. Taken together, this would suggest that these areas should be at the front of the queue for the new investment.

To find out more about how data can enhance and underpin your case for infrastructure investment, contact Rob Turner.

Areas in the highlighted bottom-left quadrant with GVA per job in the lowest 25% nationally

Local Authority

Region

Superfast/Ultrafast broadband availability (% of premises)

Population density (persons/hectare)

GVA per job (£)

West Devon

South West

77.1

0.46

49,063

Powys

Wales

78.3

0.26

45,100

Ceredigion

Wales

80.8

0.43

49,704

Torridge

South West

81.1

0.65

49,632

Richmondshire

Yorkshire and The Humber

81.7

0.39

47,111

Newry, Mourne and Down

Northern Ireland

81.7

1.10

49,290

Mendip

South West

83.7

1.48

46,563

Scottish Borders

Scotland

84.9

0.24

49,326

Derbyshire Dales

East Midlands

85.1

0.90

45,853

Herefordshire, County of

West Midlands

85.3

0.84

49,138

Carmarthenshire

Wales

86.1

0.78

46,896

East Lindsey

East Midlands

86.1

0.77

48,455

Gwynedd

Wales

87.4

0.48

49,000

South Norfolk

East of England

87.5

1.37

48,833

North Norfolk

East of England

87.8

1.05

48,000

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon

Northern Ireland

87.8

1.43

49,515

Somerset West and Taunton

South West

88.1

1.22

49,101

Boston

East Midlands

89.6

1.79

44,156

High Peak

East Midlands

90

1.69

44,727

Bath and North East Somerset

South West

90

5.09

47,517

Denbighshire

Wales

90.3

1.12

44,098

Derry City and Strabane

Northern Ireland

90.5

1.19

46,567

Allerdale

North West

91.5

0.78

48,811

Rother

South East

92

1.78

43,893

Northumberland

North East

92.1

0.63

48,398

Colchester

East of England

92.1

5.26

49,224

South Lakeland

North West

92.1

0.68

49,269

Tendring

East of England

92.2

4.09

47,050

Scarborough

Yorkshire and The Humber

92.2

1.33

47,605

Canterbury

South East

92.7

4.89

49,000

Conwy

Wales

92.8

1.02

43,174

Flintshire

Wales

92.8

3.49

47,893

Carlisle

North West

93.2

1.03

49,702

North Ayrshire

Scotland

93.2

1.56

48,756

South Ayrshire

Scotland

93.5

0.92

42,170

Isle of Wight

South East

93.9

3.64

47,667

East Ayrshire

Scotland

94.2

0.97

40,650

South Lanarkshire

Scotland

95

1.77

47,483

Sources: Census3, Ofcom1 and ONS4

References

  1. Connected Nations 2019, Ofcom, 2019
  2. An update on Rural Connectivity, House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, UK Parliament, 2019
  3. 2011 Census data, Office for National Statistics, 2011
  4. Gross Value Added (GVA), Office for National Statistics, 2018

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