The £190m Local Full Fibre Network (LFFN) Challenge Fund – which was part of a major funding package for full-fibre broadband networks announced in 2017 – is entering its third and final stage, with £95m left in the pot.
The LFFN fund is pitched at new and innovative approaches to broadband roll-out that encourage additional private sector investment in fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband by targeting key public sector sites as anchor tenants, thus encouraging roll-out to neighbourhood homes and businesses.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said the third round of funding would by-and-large continue this pattern, with a LFFN Investment Panel ready and waiting to assess various proposals.
“We recently set out our ambition for a nationwide full-fibre broadband network by 2033, and initiatives like this will be instrumental in achieving that. We want to hear from any local authority interested in taking part, so we can work closely with them on their plans to help them secure funding,” said digital minister Margot James.
The final round will, however, have a slightly new process to allocate the remaining money. This time there will be no fixed date for formal submissions. Instead, interested local authorities must submit informal expressions of interest. They will then be contacted by DCMS to help them assess their project and shape their approach if needed.
Projects will be assessed for funding on a number of criteria. The government is particularly interested in hearing from rural authorities keen to demonstrate the effectiveness of full-fibre in harder-to-reach areas; in projects that target improvements in public services, such as enabling schools to access cloud-based tools, or remote monitoring for the NHS; and projects that incentivise aggregation of broadband services in a target area.
In a nod to the Barrier Busting Taskforce set up by James’ predecessor, Matt Hancock, the government will also pay attention to projects that focus on overcoming obstacles not just to the commercial roll-out of full-fibre broadband, but also to future 5G mobile networks.