Rural Gigabit Connectivity Programme - Key Information
The Rural Gigabit Connectivity (RGC) Programme aims to assist Building Digital UK (BDUK) which is part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), and partner organisations, in delivering more full fibre connections in locations that are unlikely to benefit from commercial investment by 2033; an ambition set out in Government’s 2018 Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review.
This key information document outlines why the RGC Programme has been introduced, its aims and objectives, what it is and how it will operate.
The RGC Programme launched in May 2019 and will run until the end of March 2021. £200 million has been allocated to the Programme, from the National Productivity Investment Fund.
The Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (FTIR) identified that approximately 10% of UK premises would be unlikely to receive commercial access to full fibre by 2033, and that these premises would be located primarily in rural and remote areas.
An “Outside In” intervention was proposed in the FTIR, to ensure that these final 10% premises can be addressed in parallel with the rest of the UK.
The RGC Programme aims to test a Hub model approach. A ‘Hub’ is a public sector building, which is deemed to be eligible for intervention and aligns with qualifying criteria set by BDUK. The approach would involve upgrading an eligible rural public sector building with gigabit capable connectivity.
The benefit of this approach is two-fold:
Firstly, providing a gigabit capable provision to the public building, and therefore an improved public service.
Secondly, the surrounding area may also, incidentally, become increasingly viable for commercial intervention, stimulating the market to build more networks in these areas.
To further encourage this we have simultaneously launched a new category of voucher on the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme, with a specification designed to work well in rural areas.
The Programme team are currently working with the Department for Education and the Department of Health and Social Care as strategic partner organisations. BDUK have already begun identifying eligible rural public sector buildings in collaboration with these organisations, to act as Hubs.
The Programme will initially focus on upgrading around 30 rural primary schools in priority locations identified in the 2018 Budget Statement, including the Borderlands, Cornwall, Welsh Valleys and West Wales. In addition, more primary schools in final 10% locations across the UK have been identified for inclusion in the Programme.
Programme Aims and Objectives
The Programme anticipates that upgrading Hubs should provide:
- Improved public services, as a result of gigabit capable infrastructure
- Improved access to infrastructure for homes and businesses in the Final 10% to enable gigabit capable connectivity
- Wider adoption of best practice policies (e.g. making use of DCMS Streetworks Toolkit, and collaborative working practices with highways and planning)
- Aggregation of local requirements to increase efficiencies
The FTIR estimated that addressing the final 10% equates to connecting around 3 million premises, and BDUK anticipate this would require between £3-5 billion of additional funding. The RGC Programme has been designed to validate a potential approach and forecast costs. Rather than provide gigabit capable solutions to all of these premises at once, the Programme will focus on a subset of these premises in question.
RGC will complement other BDUK Programmes, such as Superfast Broadband and Local Full Fibre Networks. However, the RGC Programme will not overlap with areas where a gigabit capable solution has or will be delivered through these existing or commercial interventions.
In addition to the Hub model intervention, the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme is in place to encourage take-up of gigabit capable connectivity to residential and business premises, and will be adapted to help with addressing premises in the final 10%.
How the Programme will be delivered
The RGC Programme will be delivered using a phased approach. The Programme is initially working with Department for Education and the Department of Health and Social Care as two major public sector estates in rural areas.
BDUK will closely monitor the progress of the initial phases and, utilising lessons learnt, may extend opportunities to more strategic partners in the future.
Local Authorities and other public sector organisations can express an interest in becoming a strategic partner by completing the Programme’s Hub Site Submission Sheet, which is available for download on gov.uk and submitting this to firstname.lastname@example.org
Although the completion of this Hub Site Submission Sheet is not a guarantee that BDUK will be able to invest in a particular scheme, it is nonetheless an essential part of the selection process. If an expression of interest looks to be in alignment with the aims and objectives of the Programme, BDUK may contact the Local Authority or public sector organisation in the future.
How the delivery process will work
Once potential Hub sites have been identified, the sites will be filtered against the Programme’s eligibility criteria to confirm which sites are eligible for funding.
The eligibility criteria will take into account a number of factors, including rurality, funding considerations, state aid compliance, existing interventions (commercial or otherwise), value for money and deliverability within timescales of the Programme.
Once this assessment has taken place, BDUK and the strategic partner will work through an assurance process. If approved, this will result in BDUK committing funding, and the strategic partner entering into an agreement with a supplier to deliver the Hub upgrades.
During delivery, the strategic partner will be responsible for procurement, monitoring progress, ensuring that the management information requirements are met, and contract management to ensure that milestones are achieved.
When the connections have been delivered, the strategic partner and the supplier will be committed to provide management information which evidences the impact on services from the increased connectivity.
The strategic partner is also required to undertake demand stimulation activities in the local area in order to increase take up within the community.
Potential funding process and State Aid considerations
The RGC Programme will provide a one-off capital payment for individual, eligible Hub connections. A site must have an internal business justification for the upgrade, take up a service from the new provision and pay ongoing costs.
The Programme follows the Public Sector Building Upgrade mechanism based on the LFFN model, with each procuring body responsible for ensuring that there is no State Aid present.
The DCMS assessment is that the purchase of gigabit capable internet connections by public bodies for non- economic purposes, either as an aggregated, regional approach or for individual sites is ‘no aid’ on the basis that it is not market distorting, as long as the public bodies only buy what they need. This will need to be considered for each individual proposal.
Various options for making payments via a number of platforms are currently being reviewed. For example, one option is that BDUK could make a budget transfer to the strategic partner, who then transfers funding to the relevant party (e.g. a supplier). There is also development work ongoing to consider the mobilisation of an ‘automated’ payment process, similar to that utilised by the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme.
As with other BDUK Programmes, the RGC team will ensure that a thorough assurance structure is in place, prior to BDUK committing any funding, and to validate the eligibility of expenditure before payment.
As this is a research, development and learning Programme, BDUK may find it necessary, in the future, to modify this approach.
Any modifications to the Programme will be communicated in the first instance. BDUK ask that suppliers and consumers, in return, inform us of any changes to their situation, plans or strategies accordingly.
Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme
BDUK have adapted the successful Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme to support the RGC Programme objectives of increasing gigabit capable connectivity in rural areas.
The Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme, part of the LFFN Programme, enables small grants to be made to individual beneficiaries, which are paid directly to suppliers for administrative simplicity.
Beneficiaries use a postcode checker to identify providers operating in their postcode. They select a supplier who then requests a voucher from BDUK. Upon the completion of eligibility checks, a voucher is issued to the beneficiary and the supplier delivers the requested service. When a supplier notifies BDUK that delivery is complete and, subject to assurance checks (including, beneficiary validation, cost audits and site visits) payment is made.
The current eligibility criteria for this new category of voucher includes:
- The postcode must be in an area defined as ‘rural’ by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for England and Wales in the 2011 Definitions, and, in the case of Devolved Administrations, by making use of the pre-agreed classifications;
- The location cannot be in plan to receive state aid funded gigabit capable connectivity, or already have received gigabit capable connectivity (commercially or otherwise)
- The post code must not have greater connectivity than 30Mbps currently available
- Any premise that is capable of receiving a speed of greater than 30Mbps is not eligible to benefit from this new category of voucher under the Scheme, whether or not that connection is currently in use.
- Residential vouchers can only be used when part of a group project (two or more premises)
For premises which meet this criteria, vouchers values will increase up to £3,500 for SME beneficiaries, and up to £1,500 for residents.
If you have any questions about the RGC Programme, please direct them to email@example.com where a member of the team will be able to provide you with assistance.
Subject to the disclosure rights below DCMS will not disclose any information which has been provided in connection with the RGC Programme and expressly designated as confidential.
DCMS may disclose any information which has been provided in connection with the RGC Programme to (i) any member, director, officer, employee or agent of DCMS or BDUK; (ii) any person acting as an adviser or consultant to DCMS or BDUK; and (iii) any other part of the UK government.
Publicity activities with any section of the media concerning any aspect of the RGC Programme may not be taken without the prior written agreement of DCMS (including as to the content of any such publicity). In this paragraph ‘media’ includes (without limit) radio, television, print, newspapers, trade and specialist press, the internet and email or mobile content accessible by the public.
Whilst the content of this document has been prepared in good faith, it does not purport to be comprehensive nor has it been independently verified. Neither DCMS nor its advisers and their respective directors, officers, members, partners, employees, other staff or agents (i) makes any representation or warranty (express or implied) as to the accuracy, reasonableness or completeness of the information provided; (ii) accepts any responsibility for the information provided or for its fairness, accuracy or completeness; and (iii) will be liable for any loss or damage of any kind (other than in respect of fraudulent misrepresentation) arising as a result of reliance on such information or any subsequent information.
It is acknowledged that in completing the hub site submission sheet and participating in the RGC Programme, limited personal data will be provided to, and collected by, DCMS, who for the purpose of data protection law acts as the controller of such data. Further information relating to personal data can be found on the hub site submission sheet, the document in which information should be submitted.