Boris Johnson has hailed the expansion of gigabit broadband as he seeks to highlight his achievements as prime minister in his final week in office.
The outgoing Prime Minister will travel to North Dorset on Tuesday, where work is starting on the first major contract under the government’s Gigabit Project, the £5billion scheme to roll out more reliable broadband to areas difficult to access.
New data from the ThinkBroadband website will show that gigabit broadband is now available to 70% of UK homes and businesses, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has said.
Coverage was just 7% in 2019, meaning almost 20 million premises have been connected since then, according to the department. The government aims to reach 85% coverage by 2025.
Mr Johnson said he was “proud” of the expansion and that it demonstrated an “upgrade”.
During his visit to Dorset, he will see preparations for 7,000 rural premises to be connected across the region by 2025 under a £6million contract awarded by the government to Wessex Internet.
The Prime Minister said: “From Sherbourne to Stirling, super-fast broadband is leveling towns and villages across the country.
“In just three years, we’ve increased gigabit broadband coverage from 7% of homes to 70%, and I’m proud that today more than 20 million homes, businesses and organizations can access fast and reliable internet, unlocking their potential, creating opportunity and driving growth across the country.
This marks the start of a “burst” of Gigabit Project delivery contracts to be awarded over the next few months, DCMS said.
He added that contracts totaling more than £690million aiming to cover up to 498,000 premises have already been launched, with efforts to upgrade rural homes due to start in Cornwall, Cambridgeshire, Cumbria and several northern areas. -East of England before the end of the year.
Gigabit broadband means speeds of around 1,000 megabits per second (Mbps), which is significantly faster than the current national average of just over 50 Mbps.
Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries said: “Today we enter an exciting new phase in our £5 billion Project Gigabit digital connectivity program by signing our first major contract in Dorset.
“The benefits of better broadband connectivity cannot be underestimated and this work will mean that those living in rural areas will be able to enjoy 21st century speeds at home and in the workplace, making their easier and more productive life.”
Mr Johnson’s visit to Dorset is the first in a series of expected stops across the UK in his final week before his successor at No 10 – Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak – is announced next Monday.
He was accused of going missing with two public holidays abroad as the country faced warnings of a harsh winter with spiraling energy bills.
Mr Johnson, who was ousted by his own MPs after a series of scandals, could try to return as Prime Minister, a former Conservative Cabinet minister has predicted.
Rory Stewart, who ran against Mr Johnson for the Tory leadership in 2019, compared him to former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and former US President Donald Trump, who are plotting a return to power.
The former international development minister told BBC Radio 4’s Today program on Monday: “I’m afraid he has an extraordinary ego and thinks he’s been abused.
“He fails to see the reality that he was a very bad prime minister and lost his job because of deep character flaws.
“And yes, I’m afraid we’ll end up with a second Berlusconi or a second Trump trying to turn back the clock.”