Hampshire calls for national action to ensure no residents left digitally isolated

An ambition to ensure all Hampshire residents can connect to high-speed internet services has led Hampshire County Council to call on Government to press the case for making sure no-one is left behind in being able to access online services and support

Feb 23 2024

The County Council has agreed a Digital Future Strategy and at the full County Council meeting on 22 February, County Council Leader, Councillor Rob Humby, committed to write to Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology - to seek assurance that the 2.2 per cent of Hampshire properties (around 22,000 premises) that did not benefit from the Superfast Broadband programme will have their internet speeds upgraded at the earliest opportunity, and that none of Hampshire will be left behind in the drive to Gigabit capable connectivity. 

Councillor Rob Humby, Leader of Hampshire County Council, said: “We recognise that the national Superfast Broadband programme has been very successful and, in Hampshire, has meant that almost 98% of premises across the county are benefitting from higher internet speeds. Without the programme and this public subsidy, they would have otherwise missed out on being upgraded due to the lack of commercial viability for service providers to do so. 

“However, we want no one left behind. Being able to connect digitally is vital for so many reasons in our day-to-day lives – for things like making health appointments, staying connected with friends and family, working or learning from home, and using online banking to manage our finances. And being able to have fast and efficient online access will become increasingly fundamental to the way we manage our day-to-day lives. It is for this reason that we are seeking a commitment that the Government’s national Project Gigabit initiative will achieve 100 per cent connectivity to fast and reliable broadband services.”

The County Council’s Digital Future Strategy highlights that for residents to fully enjoy healthy and independent lives, and reduce the risk of social isolation and financial disadvantage, the County Council will take action to ensure residents have the skills, knowledge and confidence to access online services. It also sets out a commitment to further developing the County Council’s own online services and support to ensure they meet the needs of residents, and that they are joined-up and seamless to avoid duplication, as well as being easy to use. 

Project Gigabit is being delivered by BDUK, the Government’s executive agency for delivery of high-speed internet in areas not considered commercially viable by telecoms suppliers. 

As the Strategy makes clear, while this means the County Council has no direct financial involvement and no statutory obligation in its roll-out, it does have a role to support BDUK in resolving issues which relate directly to the County Council’s own services.   

This would include permitting works on the public highway - as the local highways authority - and ensuring future digital infrastructure needs are considered as part of the planning process. This support would extend to keeping residents, businesses and other stakeholders informed about BDUK’s Project Gigabit offer and scheme progress.  

BDUK has set up a voucher scheme worth £4,500 per property, for residents and businesses not covered by these contracts to be able to work together and collectively commission broadband providers to install gigabit broadband where it is urgently needed. 

Interested parties should visit the BDUK website for further information which includes details of suppliers taking part in the scheme. 

Residents in New Forest should register with Wessex Internet to find out if they are included in the planned upgrades. Those in other parts of Hampshire should register with CityFibre to be kept up to date about coverage plans.