Fibre broadband: connecting the nation’s remote populations

The provision of fibre broadband is a key element to level up the nation and connect the UK’s rural populations. In this article, we explore why full-fibre broadband is a vital infrastructure development and can have long-lasting positive business, economic and environmental implications.

Empowering rural communities with better choices 

Throughout Covid-19 we witnessed the importance of connectivity for work and social wellbeing. Many of the UK's towns and cities transitioned to remote living seamlessly, but this highlighted the lack of digital infrastructure in the nation's remote communities.  

The introduction of fibre broadband into rural areas creates a more streamlined communication channel between communities and their local councils and government services. This will have a positive knock-on effect for social services, such as home-based elderly care and home learning. 

For businesses, there are multiple benefits of better rural connectivity. Companies will be able to offer employees opportunities to work from home. This could bring one million people back to the workforce, possibly equating to a £25 billion boost to the economy.  

We have seen success stories relating to workers already across the UK. Recently, a small village in Cumbria received full-fibre technology. This has not only helped the rural village to work remotely, but farmers have benefitted as well. State of the art broadband means that farms can run many technical functions, including 24/7 CCTV to protect machinery and to monitor the calving shed. Additionally, farmers can monitor grass growth each week and ensure optimum grass conditions for the herd.  

Benefits beyond work 

Fibre broadband also increases the bandwidth for remote populations to access online entertainment and leisure activities. Whether it be video streaming, virtual/augmented reality devices, communication with family and friends or home environment improvements through IoT (internet of things) applications and devices. 

The UK has already expressed its affinity towards online entertainment services. In 2021, 72%1 of Britons subscribed to at least one paid online video streaming service. Among these subscribers, two-thirds say they have no intention of leaving these services, despite the Covid-19 induced lockdown seemingly coming to an end. It appears that the “streaming generation” is here to stay and possibly grow even more. 

Cutting out carbon  

The social and economic benefits of a full-fibre broadband rollout are clear, but there would be a positive environmental impact too. Reduced commuting contributed to a 15%2 drop in carbon dioxide emissions. With businesses transitioning online, and reliable internet access in rural areas thanks to fibre broadband, there is a decreased reliance on travelling into the office to perform work duties.   

Downing is supporting the pursuit of nationwide connectivity by recently investing in a fibre broadband company. It will look to roll out broadband to rural communities and 250,000 new homes across Wales and Scotland. Downing was advised by Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP (BCLP) on the £145 million funding deal. 

Patrick Johnson, Partner at BCLP agreed that full fibre has an important role to play in our journey to net zero: 

“As well as the reductions in pollution from the increase in remote working and reduced commuting, the technologies used to provide fibre broadband are more efficient than those used for copper and cable networks and therefore lead to reduced emissions for similar bandwidths.3  While it’s important to acknowledge that laying a brand new network will itself be a source of emissions, the end result is typically a network built for the future and running on fewer emissions than what’s come before.” 

Sean Moore, Downing Investment Director, concludes: “Living in a city, you often take high-speed internet for granted. Connecting more people to fibre broadband doesn’t just give them access to digital services, it opens up a whole new wealth of career opportunities and even the chance to just kick back and watch Netflix! With the future of work and a greener workforce relying on digital infrastructure, we are incredibly excited to see the full potential of what fibre broadband can bring to the population and the planet over the next few months and years.”  

Click here to find out more about Downing’s Energy & Infrastructure projects.