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Rural Gigabit Broadband in Cornwall May Deliver Big Economic Boost

Wednesday, May 25th, 2022 (4:54 pm) - Score 576
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Research group Curia, which was commissioned by rural broadband ISP Wildanet, has today published a new report that predicts how the deployment of gigabit-capable broadband across rural parts of Cornwall in England could deliver £615m and an additional £111m per year for the economy up to 2030.

At present Wildanet is investing £50m to deploy their own gigabit speed broadband service across Cornwall, although their precise coverage targets and timescales remain unclear (previous mentions have indicated a desire to reach 60% of properties over the next c. 3 years). Suffice to say, they have a vested interest in reports like this one.

NOTE: Currently, around 46% of Cornwall is already gigabit-capable via a mix of Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) and Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC – Virgin Media) technologies, from various different network operators.

The related report – ‘Demonstrating the Value of Improved Connectivity‘ – claims to be the first one ever to quantify the economic, social and environmental value of digital gigabit capable communications to rural and hard-to-reach areas.

According to Curia, digital connectivity would generate an economic impact amounting to £615 million Gross Value Add (GVA), and delivering an additional £111 million year-on year-until 2030. Alongside the economic impacts, the report states that gigabit broadband could also produce £101m of equivalent carbon taxation between 2020-2030 – this refers to the amount an individual or business may have paid in carbon tax, but which has been avoided as a result of the new network.

The report adds that investment in gigabit infrastructure could also have a positive impact on household finances and social wellbeing, citing the figure of £16.5 million per year for citizens in Cornwall as a result of digital inclusion, and savings of over £222.25 per household per year.

Wildanet’s CEO, Helen Wylde, said:

“The impact of the pandemic has brought into sharp focus the need to improve connectivity across the country, especially in areas outside the commercial build of large broadband providers. Altnets, such as Wildanet, have been stepping up to provide these more complex connections to level up rural communities.

I have witnessed first-hand the positive impact reliable local connections can have on individual residents, businesses, and the local economy. I am delighted that this research provides a clear quantitative analysis of this impact, which I hope will reenergise efforts to increase connectivity, and provide new industries with the confidence to invest in the South West.”

As we always say when such reports surface – trying to accurately gauge the economic impact of deploying faster broadband is notoriously difficult, not least since most premises won’t be starting from a point of zero connectivity (e.g. broadband at 30Mbps+ is now available to c.95% of premises in Cornwall).

We are all naturally very different in our requirements, and not all businesses benefit from having access to significantly faster speeds than are currently available. Meanwhile, in homes, the biggest economic drivers often stem from your ability to smoothly conduct online shopping, job hunting, banking and similar tasks, which don’t strictly require ultrafast or gigabit connectivity. Not to mention the negative impacts of issues like slow WiFi.

In short, any study that claims to show a huge economic boost should be taken with a pinch of salt, as they’re often overly optimistic and few forecasts are ever tested at a later date to see if they were accurate – partly because it’s so hard to do. Nevertheless, few could disagree that there does tend to be a strong positive relationship between broadband investment and growth, even if there is an issue of diminishing returns.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
5 Responses
  1. Somerset says:

    https://chamberuk.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/220506-Connecting-Cornwall-MP-version.pdf

    No mention of how they work out the benefit over existing max speeds available.

    47% gigabit now in Cornwall.

  2. Alex A says:

    I honestly don’t think there is massive economic benefit over what Superfast Cornwall has already achieved, maybe in a few years but right now the jump from 30+mbps to full FTTP (especially when 40+% is already FTTP) is more of a comfort thing while Superfast Cornwall was making the Internet speed bearable.

  3. John Irvine says:

    CBRE produced a similar report for BT OR in 2019 – although not focussed on rural areas – and updated it in 1921. That report – pre-pandemic – talked about city based digital companies relocating to more attractive places to work and live if the connectivity was up to scratch. It estimated the number of companies that would do so and the number of employees who would relocate. Post pandemic you could now add to that the number of people for whom working from home and only commuting part of the week is not an option.

    In short, there is growing and credible evidence of the benefit of full-fibre to the economy and I don’t think the Wildanet report is an outlier nor needs to be taken with very much salt.

  4. Mr Archer says:

    The more fibre and faster speeds that Cornwall gets is fine by me. Then I can live in my second home more and work at home as I do now.
    Gotta love a pandemic to change things.

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