The government has launched a £400m Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund that is intended to kick-start a nationwide roll-out of fibre to the premises. The government investment is expected to be more than matched with funding from the private sector, which will take the total to more than £1bn.
The announcement of the Fund follows-up a commitment made in the Autumn Statement on 23 November last year, and comes in addition to the government's £23bn National Productivity Investment Fund.
However, rather than run the fund with bureaucrats from Whitehall, the government has appointed two investment firms - Amber Fund Management and M&G Investments - to oversee and manage it.
"By catalysing private sector investment [it] will become self-sufficient," claimed the government in a statement today, adding: "It will ignite interest from private finance to invest in the sector, resulting in more alternative providers entering and expanding in the market."
Companies have been invited to contact the fund managers directly to apply for funding - implying that part of the plan is to bypass telecoms infrastructure incumbents and to encourage a wider range of companies to participate.
John Mayhew, a fund manager with M&G Investments involved with the scheme, suggested that part of their strategy for raising the additional funds from the private sector would be to attract investment from pension funds, among others.
"This approach ensures that Britain is ready for the future and brings benefits to families and businesses across the country who rely on fast and greater connectivity, as well as ordinary savers through the returns generated for their pension funds," said Mayhew.
However, critics have suggested that more needs to be done. "The proposed pledge to broadband is a step forward for all businesses. However, it cannot stop there. More must be done to manage networking services for British companies if they are to compete on the global stage," said Rufus Grig, chief technology and strategy officer at managed communications services company Maintel.
He added: "Networking services cannot be ignored. High capacity fibre connections between data centres and managed broadband services for smaller sites and home workers is now an absolute."
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