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Slow start for £400m full fibre fund but Government vows to ‘scale up’

Just £66m has been released so far as five-year scheme approaches halfway point

More than two years into its five-year lifespan, a £400m government fund to support the rollout of fibre networks has only handed out a sixth of its available money.

The Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund (DIIF) was launched by the government in July 2017. Since then, it has been managed by two specialist firms – Amber Fund Management and M&G Investments – which have responsibility for investing the money in companies developing full-fibre and ultrafast broadband networks.

With a £400m investment, HM Treasury is the fund’s “cornerstone investor”. But the government’s intention was that its upfront commitment would prompt equal or greater investments to be made by commercial entities.

The fund is available for five years, concluding at the end of the 2021/22 year. The Treasury’s newly published annual accounts show that, as of 31 March 2019, it has only invested a sixth of its budgeted investment so far – with £334m still available.

In a statement issued to PublicTechnology, a spokesperson for the department said that, despite the seemingly muted uptake of the fund so far, the investments made have helped secure a large amount of private-sector investment in broadband firms.

“The DIIF already catalysing further private investments worth more than £2.5 billion in full-fibre broadband,” the spokesperson added. “There are nearly three years of the scheme left and, as well as further new projects, we expect the existing investments in the DIIF to scale up and seek further funding as the invested-in companies grow.”

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