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The government is to commit £400 million to improving the UK's fibre broadband infrastructure.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond is set to announce in today's Autumn Statement the creation of a £400 million Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund.

The funds will be shared between fibre broadband providers seeking to expand, while private investors will be asked to match the amount put forward by the government.

A further £740 million will be put towards developing 5G services and a scheme that enables local authorities to bid for fibre connectivity.

According to official figures, full fibre connections that offer download speeds of up to 1Gbps are currently available to just two per cent of the UK.

Mr Hammond is expected to say in his keynote speech that the UK must embrace fibre-to-the-property rather than fibre-to-roadside cabinet broadband on a much wider scale.

The government's announcement has been welcomed by Andrew Griffith, Group Chief Operating Officer at Sky, who said it "chimes with our view that the future is full fibre".

"Government has played its part through this package of measures, which should help kickstart the investment needed to push the UK up the league table," he commented.

"But we won’t achieve the necessary step change in driving full fibre investment across the country unless Ofcom also takes bold and decisive action on the future of BT Openreach."

Greg Mesch, Chief Executive of CityFibre, also hailed the news, saying that plugging the UK's "fibre gap" and empowering its service-based economy is "essential".

"This new funding, stimulating competitive fibre rollout at scale by new communications infrastructure builders, is a catalyst for the delivery of the UK’s fibre future," he said.

"As a pure fibre infrastructure pioneer and the company behind the UK’s growing ranks of Gigabit Cities, CityFibre welcomes the Chancellor’s support to accelerate the deployment of fibre and 5G to homes and businesses."

Dido Harding, Chief Executive of TalkTalk, added that her organisation has "long been convinced that fully fibre internet connectivity is vital for the UK's digital future". 

She said it is delighted that the government is supporting this "cutting-edge" infrastructure and encouraging competition between alternative providers.

This, she stated, should make sure that people across the UK are able to benefit from full-fibre broadband "as quickly as possible".

BT's infrastructure subsidiary Openreach has been widely criticised recently by rival firms for its apparent reluctance to abandon old copper lines and run fibre optic cables straight to the home.

Sir Mike Rake, Chairman of BT, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We are committed to getting fibre to the premise ultimately, which is the long-term game, because it's much more reliable."

However, he said that until that is rolled out, BT will "substantially" increase speeds for 95 per cent of the UK.

Clive Selley, Chief Executive of Openreach, recently acknowledged that fibre is superior to copper and insisted he is a "big fan" of the technology.

However, he stated that supplying it to every home across the country would cost tens of billions of pounds and that G.fast technology can deliver ultrafast speeds at a much lower cost.

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