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Community Fibre Wins First Funding from Gov’t Digital Infrastructure Fund

Full fibre ISP first to win investment from government's National Digital Infrastructure Fund

By April Slattery

The UK’s Community Fibre, a full-fibre Internet Service Provider, has become the country’s first company to receive investment from the Government-backed National Digital Infrastructure Fund (NDIF) – which led a £25 million funding round for the company.

Community Fibre will use the funding to ensure the planned delivery of full-fibre to half a million homes in London by 2022 stays on track, it said, with its initial target being to provide 100,000 more London premises’ with full-fibre broadband by 2019.

Only 3% of UK homes are currently connected to full-fibre broadband; which has the capacity to provide gigabit-capable download speeds. The government set up the £400 million NDIF in July 2017, with the aim of unlocking over £1 billion for full fibre broadband.

“This funding takes us a step closer to have our full-fibre network available to social housing or private landlords in every borough of London,” Jeremy Chelot, Chief Executive at Community Fibre, said. “Thousands of people will benefit from this investment through a community engagement and up skilling programmes we run on our instalment projects.”

Full fibre has been difficult to finance thus far, owing to lack of certainty around future demand making investment hard to secure.

NDIF is investing alongside an existing shareholder in the Company, RPMI Railpen; a pension fund with £28 billion of assets under management. Railpen is the largest shareholder in Community Fibre having first invested a year ago. NDIF and Railpen have subscribed for £18 million and £7 million, respectively, of new equity in Community Fibre.

“Robert Jenrick, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, said. “We want to see full fibre broadband rolled out across the UK as quickly as possible and to support a competitive private sector in delivering that objective. That’s why we created the Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund, which is boosting the rollout of full fibre to enable people to live and work flexibly and productively, without connections failing.”

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Community Fibre was ranked the fastest Internet Service Provider in the UK, according to think Broadband’s figures at the end of March, leaving positive predictions for the full-fibre roll out.

“As long-term, responsible partners to the public sector, our aim is to mobilise capital effectively to scale up the digital infrastructure that is so critical to the UK’s economic future,” Khalid Naqib, Senior Investment Director, Amber Infrastructure, said.

“NDIF’s investment will help deliver gigabit connectivity to London’s local communities and secure appropriate returns for our investors, one of which is the UK taxpayer. We look forward to announcing further investments in the coming months as we help progress one of the central objectives in the UK Government’s productivity agenda.”

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