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February 3, 2015

Gov’t map digital network to boost broadband access

By revealing the scale and coverage of its main networks, the UK Government hopes to improve connectivity in both rural and urban areas.

By Amy-Jo Crowley

The UK government has released an interactive map of more than 13,000 miles of publicly-owned digital infrastructure, in a bid to boost broadband access and generate revenues across the country.

Each year, the government invests at least £1.5bn on digital infrastructure, but admits that it does have a complete view on this infrastructure – let alone publish it.

In its Interim Landscape Report, the government hopes that by revealing the scale and coverage of its main networks, it can improve connectivity in both rural and urban areas, making better use of taxpayers’ money.

The networks include fibre that runs alongside railways and motorways, a defence network, the N3 wide area network connecting health and social care sites, and the research and education network JANET.

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Outgoing minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, says the maps and data are a first step into increasing transparency and setting out how to use publicly owned networks more effectively.

"In the past government didn’t even know what telecoms and digital infrastructure the public sector itself owned. Our new maps reveal taxpayer-funded networks stretching right across the country," he said.

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"We will work with providers to exploit spare capacity while joining-up our own approach, so more people can access high-speed broadband and better mobile phone coverage."

The report also highlighted several ways in which the government could improve its use of infrastructure. For example, making government buildings available as locations to deploy mobile masts could boost broadband access and generate additional revenue.

Maude added: "This is a great opportunity. We want to take full advantage of this existing capacity, avoiding wasteful duplication when buying additional resource."

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