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Bringing faster broadband to rural areas

Investment in broadband may eventually help the rural economy to connect. Gareth Taylor reports.

Fast broadband is of immeasurable importance both for business and daily life, and network investment is critical to increasing access to high-speed broadband. 

Open reach began upgrading the network to fibre in 2009 and now 27.6 million homes and businesses in the UK have access to fibre broadband.

 In spite of this success, Ofcom estimates that about 40,000 premises, mainly in rural and remote areas of the UK, do not have access to good fixed broadband (over 10Mb download speed) or 4G coverage. 

To increase competition and boost investment, Ofcom took steps in 2017 to deregulate the telephone network industry and it now operate a tender based system. 

Originally BT and more recently Openreach were responsible for the hardware associated with the network. This included all fibre upgrades and there had been claims that Openreach was failing to invest sufficiently. 

Network upgrades are now put out to tender to a wider range of companies. Internet service providers, such as Virgin Media, Citryfibre, and Gigaclear have been making use of the regulation change and the Government-subsided Broadband Delivery UK programme to extend their networks and infrastructure into rural areas. 

Boris Johnson in his Conservative leadership campaign set out his ambition to bring forward the 2033 full fibre target to 2025. It is hoped that this new process and the accelerated targets will speed progress and increase investment, resulting in a surge of upgrade works in rural areas. 

These developments will provide obvious benefits to communities but may also bring disruption to landowners.

 Galbraith regularly acts for landowners and occupiers against utilities companies looking to take rights and uses this experience to also advise utility companies over rural land rights strategies, including land referencing and GIS data management.