East of England celebrates £100m boost for full-fibre rural rollout

County Broadband engineers working on installing full-fibre broadband infrastructure in a village

County Broadband engineers working on installing full-fibre broadband infrastructure in an East of England village - Credit: County Broadband

A company building full-fibre broadband networks in villages and rural locations has netted £100m from investors to connect homes and businesses across the East of England.

County Broadband – which plans to double its workforce to more than 250 – says the private cash boost from Aviva Investors means it can extend its full-fibre rollout to reach half a million homes by the end of 2027. 

Founder and chief executive Lloyd Felton expressed delight at the new funds.

The alternative network (alt-net) provider, based at Aldham, near Colchester, and founded in 2003 is already linking up premises in more than 150 villages across Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire after receiving £46m investment from Aviva Investors in 2018. 

“This reaffirms our continued and successful partnership with the Aviva Investors team over the last few years,” said Mr Felton.

Lloyd Felton, chief executive of County Broadband

Lloyd Felton, chief executive of County Broadband - Credit: County Broadband

“We are committed to delivering full-fibre, gigabit-capable broadband to thousands more communities, homes and businesses. Building new broadband infrastructure is a complex task and whilst our plans are ambitious, they are grounded in reality as we understand the importance of delivering on the promises we make.

“As we embark on another exciting phase of growth, we will always retain our 18-year heritage as a proud, local community driven provider.”

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The UK government hopes to deliver nationwide gigabit-capable speeds (1,000 Mbps+) by 2030 to boost economic growth. A report from the Independent Networks Co-operative Association (INCA) and Point Topic estimates the alt-net industry plans to cover nearly 30m premises by the end of 2025 after gaining significant investor support.

Culture secretary Nadine Dorries said the government was working with the industry on a £5bn Project Gigabit to ensure the most hard-to-reach areas are not left behind.

Full-fibre broadband involves taking fibre optic cables directly to premises – known as fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) infrastructure – by replacing slower copper-based wires.

Essex Chambers of Commerce chief executive Denise Rossiter, North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker and New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership chief executive Chris Starkie all welcomed the investment in the region’s broadband infrastructure.

“As highlighted in the Norfolk & Suffolk Economic Strategy, fast and reliable broadband is going to be essential for regenerating communities such as our market towns, giving companies the infrastructure to operate and create jobs away from our busier urban centres,” said Mr Starkie.

Sean McLachlan, senior director, infrastructure equity at Aviva Investors, said: “The rollout of fibre to homes and places of work represents a project with high social value and community benefits, particularly as families and businesses settle into hybrid working, where fast and reliable internet connections into the home are increasingly important and relied upon.”

Residents and businesses can check if they are covered in County Broadband’s rollout by entering their postcode at www.countybroadband.co.uk