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Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has today (19 March) welcomed news that 40,000 homes and businesses across the region will benefit from hugely increased broadband speeds as the Government rolls out “Project Gigabit”.
The first phase of the UK-wide £5billion scheme will target hard-to-reach properties with slow connections. Internet speeds will rise to 1,000 megabits – or one gigabit – per second to give these people in rural areas the freedom to live and work more flexibly.
Project Gigabit aims to increase recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and fire up high-growth sectors like tech and the creative industries. Spades will be in the ground on the project in the first half of 2022.
Government’s Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme is also being relaunched on 8 April 2021 to give eligible residents and businesses in rural areas immediate financial help to get gigabit speeds. Government is also making up to £110million available to connect public sector buildings, such as GP surgeries, libraries and schools, in the hardest to reach parts of the UK with the infrastructure.
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “We have all had to adapt to an increasingly online world in response to the coronavirus pandemic, but there are still thousands of people across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool who don’t have access to the internet speeds they need to keep their businesses going, take part in online learning, keep connected with friends and family or access digital services that others take for granted.
“This much-needed boost will make sure no one is left behind as we continue to stay connected and take advantage of the new opportunities of increased digitisation.
“More than that, it will help some of our key sectors central to my plan for jobs – such as the creative industries – go above and beyond in playing a part in our economy, growing and creating the jobs of the future.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Project Gigabit is the rocket boost that we need to get lightning-fast broadband to all areas of the country. This broadband revolution will fire up people’s businesses and homes, and the vital public services that we all rely on, so we can continue to level up and build back better from this pandemic.”
Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “Project Gigabit is our national mission to plug in and power up every corner of the UK and get us gigafit for the future.
“We have already made rapid progress, with almost 40 percent of homes and businesses now able to access next-generation gigabit speeds, compared to just 9 percent in 2019. Now we are setting out our plans to invest £5 billion in remote and rural areas so that no one is left behind by the connectivity revolution.
“That means no more battling over the bandwidth, more freedom to live and work anywhere in the country, and tens of thousands of new jobs created as we deliver a game-changing infrastructure upgrade.”