Calls for investment in ‘shovel-ready’ engineers to ‘build build build’ new digital infrastructure

More investment in training and skills is needed to boost the number of engineers in the region and help build world-class full-fibre networks

Hyperfast broadband provider County Broadband has backed calls for more investment in training and skills to boost the number of engineers in the region and help build world-class full-fibre networks in rural communities.

County Broadband, based in East Anglia, has increased its local workforce in the area by 500% in the last year. This rapid expansion followed a multi-million pound investment and the company is now building a growing number of Hyperfast networks in rural areas.

The firm is now throwing its weight behind industry calls for new government commitments to shore up the next generation of engineering talent whilst upskilling those on the frontline.

A shortage of skilled labour has been identified as a key barrier for the government to achieve its flagship target of providing gigabit-capable speeds nationwide by 2025, according to the Independent Networks Cooperative Association (INCA).

Currently, only 12% of the UK can access full-fibre networks that provide the 1,000 Mbps speeds. The new networks are being built to replace Victorian ‘superfast’ copper-based infrastructure, with prime minister Boris Johnson relying on local providers like County Broadband to achieve his target.

It comes after a new survey* by County Broadband found nine in ten residents relied on broadband to work from home while 68% spent more than four hours a day online.

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Lloyd Felton, chief executive of County Broadband, said: “Recent events have highlighted just how important next generation broadband access is going to be. The government has rightly placed a high priority on broadband provision, including awarding key-worker status to network engineers.

“We are proud to have completed the delivery of our new Hyperfast networks in rural Essex benefiting thousands of residents and businesses during such a difficult and challenging time and have many more local networks in build and nearing completion.

“Upgrading the region’s digital infrastructure will play a central role in boosting the economic recovery and this requires a shovel-ready pipeline of engineers, IT technicians and other skilled industry specialists.

“Subsequently, we need a firm commitment from the government to direct enough resources and training opportunities into the engineering industry, and whilst we pledge to play our role to help identify and train future-ready local talent, we will continue to work with and support INCA in ensuring the rapidly-evolving industry gets the funding assurances we need.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a package of measures including a retraining revolution in his Summer Economic Update to create a new innovative economy and avoid mass unemployment. It followed Mr Johnson’s signature pledge to “build, build, build” to revive the economy.

INCA is consulting its members, including County Broadband, to identify training needs and will give its findings to the government. Its chief executive Malcolm Corbett said: “The independent sector is fully committed and ready to help the Government achieve its targets for broadband coverage in the UK, but it must also listen to the genuine concerns of those on the frontline.

“We need the same commitment made to developing a new generation of engineering talent or we risk falling short of the 2025 gigabit broadband target by some way.”

County Broadband aims to provide Hyperfast full-fibre connection access to around 20,000 premises across the East of England by Christmas 2020.

Residents and businesses can find out if they’re in a village covered in the rollout by using our postcode checker here.

Ends

*Survey of 1,000 adults living in urban areas in England and 1,000 adults living in rural areas in England conducted by Opinium on behalf of County Broadband in May 2020

For more information please contact:

Tim Miller: 07927 515604 / tim.miller@genesispr.co.uk

Matt Stott: 07825 908360 / matthew.stott@genesispr.co.uk

Cheriton Alexander: 01376 562002 | Ext 404 / cheriton.alexander@countybroadband.co.uk

Notes to Editors

  1. County Broadband is a specialist rural broadband provider based in East Anglia.
  2. In 2018, County Broadband received £46 million funding from Aviva Investors to offer fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) hyperfast broadband to select villages across the East of England.
  3. FTTP is the installation of fibre optic cables directly into premises and offers speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps (1 Gigabit). This is significantly faster than the more commonly used fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) technology in which fibre cables are sent to local street-side cabinets and then distributed through existing old copper cabling to each premise.
  4. For more information, visit www.countybroadband.co.uk or follow @CountyBroadband on Twitter

Broadband speed definitions. Broadband.co.uk defines the following services:

  • High Speed = broadband up to 24Mbps
  • Superfast = Broadband Up to 80Mbps
  • Ultrafast = speeds of 100Mbps or more
  • Hyperfast = speeds of 500Mbps or more

Referenced here: https://www.broadband.co.uk/guides/ultrafast-and-hyperfast-broadband/